An apnea is what happens when you stop breathing for a moment during sleep. Apneas are defined as pauses lasting 10 seconds or longer; a shorter pause is known as a hypopnea. It's most often caused by your breathing passageways becoming blocked while you sleep, a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea.
During an apnea, blood oxygen levels fall. The brain doesn't get the oxygen it needs. REM sleep, which is supposed to be the most restful, is compromised. Sleep apnea leaves people feeling daytime fatigue, but that's not all: it also leaves sufferers more vulnerable to a host of other health problems. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, brain damage and memory loss have all been linked to sleep apnea.
Not all people who snore have sleep apnea, but most people with sleep apnea do snore. Snoring is loud, rumbling breath during sleep. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is characterized by stopping breathing or skipping breaths during sleep.
Treating obstructive or central sleep apnea improves a person's overall health and well-being. But a significant side benefit of sleep apnea treatment is that it can eliminate snoring. Ask anyone whose spouse snores just how valuable that can be! In fact, when people who snore seek treatment, the marriage tends to improve as well.