Sleep apnea is pauses in breathing during sleep. The muscles in your throat relax when you fall asleep causing your breathing passages to narrow and soft tissues in your throat to collapse. This obstructs airflow. Pauses in breathing can occur hundreds of times a night and last 10 seconds to over a minute. The brain sees these pauses and notes the drop in oxygen, and sends signals to the nervous system while pressure is building up in the back of the throat. This causes you to gasp for a breath, wake up, open your airways and then fall back asleep. This can happen hundreds of times a night. These pauses cause your heart to work harder.
American Association of Heart Failure Nurses
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