What is Mild Sleep Apnea?

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  • Written By: Laura A.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Mild sleep apnea is the least severe type of a common sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. This is a condition marked by brief pauses in breathing during sleep. It can be difficult to diagnose because it is only observable while the patient is sleeping. Some signs of mild sleep apnea are snoring and sleepiness during the day. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to other health problems including high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems.

Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway is slightly obstructed during sleep. The causes of sleep apnea can be traced to either the airway or the brain. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to physical upper airway obstruction by a large tongue or tonsils, blocked nasal passages or excessive tissue when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to communicate properly with the muscles that control breathing during sleep. People who are overweight or smoke are more likely to suffer from this condition.


Many people who have sleep apnea aren’t aware of the problem, so mild sleep apnea can be particularly difficult to detect. Those who share a bed with someone often first learn there is a problem from their sleeping partner after observing these episodes of disrupted sleep. Loud snoring is one telltale sign of potential sleep apnea. There are few things people who sleep alone can look out for, such as waking up with a dry mouth, feeling tired during the day or excessive night sweating.

It is very important for suspected cases of sleep apnea to receive a professional diagnosis. This usually involves undergoing a sleep study known as a polysomnogram to measure the length and frequency of breathing interruptions during sleep. Mild sleep apnea is fairly easy to treat; it is usually a matter of improving the diet and exercising more. Sleeping on the side or at a slight elevation can help control the problem. In some cases, a mouthpiece that keeps the airway open may be recommended for sleep.

Diagnosing mild sleep apnea before it becomes more severe makes it easier to treat and control. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to many more severe complications. The lack of sleep can have a negative impact on mood, work performance, driving ability, and interpersonal relationships. Mild sleep apnea that is ignored can worsen and develop into serious problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.



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