What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is among the most common and most dangerous types of sleep disorder. An estimated 18 million Americans have the condition, which is marked by repeated episodes of cessation of breathing during sleep that over can lead to high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and disordered thinking. The most common effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive nasal airway pressure. With many forms of apnea, the nasal tissues collapse enough and the tongue gets in the way so the person can't breathe through the mouth at all. When they can't breathe through their nose or their mouth, they stop breathing, and wake up, often without knowing it. A popular treatment requires a patient to wear a soft plastic mask over his or her nose while sleeping. A device supplies pressurized room air through a flexible tube attached to the mask. The pressurized air acts as a splint to prevent the airway from collapsing.