Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked while sleeping. OSA can be most prevalent in REM sleep when there is muscle paralysis. The diaphragm and chest work harder to open the airway in order to bring air into the lungs. Breathing usually resumes with a gasping or choking or even a sharp body movement that "wakes" the person up enough to open their airway. This may or may not be realized by the individual. At times, a bed partner will be the one to identify it occurring. OSA is potentially very serious. It is a repeated occurrence throughout the night. This taxes the heart and all other systems of the body in a variety of ways. We link OSA to heart attacks and strokes but along with those acute issues could be chronic systemic issues such as diabetes, decreased immune function, mood disorders, and others.
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