Do I have sleep apnea? A look at symptoms and warning signs

(Photo: Flickr/Scott MacLeod Liddle)

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition which makes it difficult for people to breathe while they sleep due to a restricted airway.

It's an ailment that affects millions of people worldwide and can be fatal if not treated appropriately.

Here are some quick facts about sleep apnea, thanks to WebMD:

-There are two different types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a physical blockage of the airway, during which soft tissue in a person's throat blocks the airway during sleep. Central sleep apnea is a failure of of signals by the brain to breathe during sleep.

-Sleep apnea causes you to physically stop breathing. Some severe sufferers report that this could happen as many as 400 times per night.

-It can affect anyone. Regardless of age, despite a large amount of sleep apnea sufferers being over 40, anyone can have it, even young children.

The symptoms of sleep apnea include the following:

-Sore throat after sleeping

-Waking up multiple times during the night, especially short of breath

-Fatigue or lack of energy during the day due to a lack of sleep

-Headaches, especially in the morning

-Sleepiness during regular activities, like working and driving

There are several risk factors to take into account as well, such as being overweight and over 40, having a large neck or having oversized features, such as a large tongue or tonsils.

Luckily, there are several ways to prevent the onset or mitigate the effects of sleep apnea. They include losing weight, sleeping on your side or using a mouthpiece to keep your mouth open while you sleep.

For more information on sleep apnea, you can check out WebMD's full report, the American Sleep Apnea Association and the National Heart,{ } Lung and Blood Institute.