What is sleep apnea?

Your-Health-Online Back-to-Directory A health article about sleep apnea from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies

Sleep apnea is a health condition far more serious than what most would think of.

Sleep apnea is a health condition that happens when one's breathing during sleep stop for a while, usually 10 seconds or even longer.

Sleep apnea could happen 5 to 45 times per hour.

Sleep apnea is usually associated with choking sensations and often leads to headaches and sleepiness during the day. Its moderateness or severity is measured with respect to the frequency of episodes per hour, whether you have no breathing (apnea) or slower breathing (hyponea).

Signs & Symptoms

Sleep apnea occurs mostly but not limited to men and not specific to any age group. Loud snoring is usually associated with apnea. People with high blood pressure and obese are most likely to developed sleep apnea. Problems in the nose, throat, and air passageway can also cause sleep apnea. Early detection of sleep apnea is very important since it is usually implies an underlying health conditions such as heart problems.

In some cases, apnea happen when the muscles in the throat & tongue relax when one is sleeping, which eventually lead to blockage of the air passageway to some varying degree.

Then breathing becomes noisier, slow, or even stop for a while. Obese people have great possibilities of having sleep apnea since they have more tissue in the airway that makes it narrow for normal breathing.

Sleep apnea makes an active person feel sleepy in the morning and affects their concentration in work. Severe sleep apnea could lead to depression, memory loses, irritability, and other negative socio-psychological conditions.

Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is far more common than generally understood, thought to affect between 2 and 4 percent of the adult population.

First described in 1965, sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. It owes its name to a Greek word, apnea, meaning “want of breath.”

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea, which is less common, occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations.

Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common and occurs when air cannot flow into or out of the person’s nose or mouth although efforts to breathe continue.

Other, milder respiratory events during sleep known as “hypopneas” are defined as periods lasting 10 seconds or longer during which breathing is significantly reduced.

Sleep apnea is characterized by multiple respiratory pauses during sleep. These pauses, or “apneas,” are defined as periods of 10 seconds or longer during which the sleeper stops breathing altogether.

In a given night, the number of involuntary breathing pauses or “apneic events” may be as high as 20 to 60 or more per hour.

Most people with sleep apnea will have periods of abnormal breathing that last between 30 and 40 seconds more than 400 times per night.

So the average person with sleep apnea spends more than 3 hours a night when he’s not breathing normally – or not breathing at all!

These breathing pauses are almost always accompanied by snoring between apnea episodes, although not everyone who snores has this condition. Sleep apnea can also be characterized by choking sensations.

The frequent interruptions of deep, restorative sleep often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and may be associated with an early morning headache.

Early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea is important because it may be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes but is more common in men (it may be under-diagnosed in women) those over 40, and those who are overweight and possibly young African Americans.

It has been estimated that as many as 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Four percent of middle-aged men and 2 percent of middle-aged women have sleep apnea along with excessive daytime sleepiness.

People most likely to have or develop sleep apnea include those who snore loudly and also are overweight, or have high blood pressure, or have some physical abnormality in the nose, throat, or other parts of the upper airway. Sleep apnea seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis.

Certain mechanical and structural problems in the airway cause the interruptions in breathing during sleep. In some people, apnea occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and partially block the opening of the airway.

When the muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue and the uvula (the small fleshy tissue hanging from the center of the back of the throat) relax and sag, the airway becomes blocked, making breathing labored and noisy and even stopping it altogether.

Sleep apnea also can occur in obese people when an excess amount of tissue in the airway causes it to be narrowed. With a narrowed airway, the person continues his or her efforts to breathe, but air cannot easily flow into or out of the nose or mouth.

Unknown to the person, this results in heavy snoring, periods of no breathing, and frequent arousals (causing abrupt changes from deep sleep to light sleep). Ingestion of alcohol and sleeping pills increases the frequency and duration of breathing pauses in people with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea refers to a breathing problem that can occur during sleep. In sleep, the muscles in the pharynx (the back of the throat) relax, allowing it to constrict. This partial collapse of the pharynx can sometimes lead to inadequate airflow.

The body senses poor airflow and takes a deep breath, which leads to an arousal. These deep breaths and consequent arousals can occur 50-100 times an hour, severely disrupting sleep.

Sleep Apnea is diagnosed by an overnight study of sleep and breathing patterns called a polysomnogram.

While there are many treatments for sleep apnea, the most common utilizes a nasal CPAP – a machine that blows pressurized air in through the nose, helping people with this condition get adequate airflow to the lungs, allowing them to sleep well and feel refreshed.

People with sleep apnea report a number of symptoms that they often fail to report as problems, and thus miss detection by healthcare professionals. (A spouse or bed partner often provides helpful information about the sleep and daytime functioning of the sufferer.)

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

• Loud snoring
• Pauses in breathing while asleep
• Snoring interrupted by gasping, snorting, or choking
• Excessive daytime sleepiness, often with the tendency to fall sleep in inappropriate situations such as while at work, while watching movies, or while driving
• Trouble with attention, concentration, or memory
• Low mood, depression, or irritability
• Loss of sexual interest, impotence (in men),
• or menstrual irregularities (in women)
• Acid stomach, or heartburn at night
• Dry mouth upon awakening
• Headaches upon awakening
• Nausea upon awakening
• The need to urinate many times at night (without having a large prostate) or even bedwetting
• Being overweight
• Non-refreshing sleep

It is important to note that many people over the age of 70 may have sleep apnea without snoring.

Sleep apnea is associated with significant health and safety risks.

Because of the serious disturbances in their normal sleep patterns, people with sleep apnea often feel very sleepy during the day and their concentration and daytime performance suffer. The consequences of sleep apnea range from annoying to life-threatening.

They include symptoms suggesting depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory difficulties, and falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving. Untreated sleep apnea patients are 3 times (or more) likely to have automobile accidents

It has been estimated that up to 50 percent of sleep apnea patients have high blood pressure. It has recently been shown that sleep apnea contributes to high blood pressure. Risk for heart attack and stroke may also increase in those with sleep apnea

Health risks include:

High blood pressure. One review of the medical literature reports that approximately 6 of every 10 people with sleep apnea suffers from high blood pressure.

Irregular heartbeats. Heart rhythms that are either too slow or too fast, or rhythms that are abnormal (such as premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs) occur in about half of those with sleep apnea.

Stroke is approximately 10 times greater in those with sleep apnea than those without.

Low blood oxygen, a common occurrence in people with sleep apnea, appears to be associated with a number of medical problems. This condition may result in seizure during sleep.

Death rates are higher in those with sleep apnea or untreated than those without.

Excessive daytime sleepiness: Sleepiness is a “hallmark” of sleep apnea, and often results in impaired daytime functioning. People with sleep apnea may be at greater risk of accidents or injuries due to fatigue.

For example, people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related motor vehicle accident than healthy individuals.

Sleep apnea treatment

Detecting sleep apnea is a collaborative effort among your family physician, neurologist, and pulmonologist. Among the tests for diagnosing person with such disorder are Polysommography and The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT).

Polysomnography monitors different functions of the body during sleep such as brain activity, movement of the eye, movement of the muscles, heart beating, blood oxygen. The test will also determine whether the condition is moderate or severe. The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) measures how fast the individual fall into sleep.

Normal people fall into sleep in 10 to 20 minutes on the average while people with sleep apnea disorder fall into sleep in 5 minutes or less. Additionally, MSLT is use to measure the daytime sleepiness of the person.

There are many treatments for sleep apnea. Weight loss is a common recommendation for overweight people with sleep apnea.

However, most doctors usually recommend treatment with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

CPAP is delivered using a small bedside machine that is attached to a plastic hose and nose mask worn by the sleeper.

The machine gently delivers air that helps the sleeper breathe normally.

Effective surgical treatments are available, including those offered by Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists, and weight loss specialists.

Mild cases of sleep apnea may benefit from the use of an oral appliance.

Non-specific Therapy

Behavioral changes are an important part of the treatment program, and in mild cases behavioral therapy may be all that is needed.

Overweight persons can benefit from losing weight. Even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the number of apneic events for most patients.

Individuals with apnea should avoid the use of alcohol and sleeping pills, which make the airway more likely to collapse during sleep and prolong the apneic periods.

In some patients with mild sleep apnea, breathing pauses occur only when they sleep on their backs. In such cases, using pillows and other devices that help them sleep in a side position may be helpful.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is a common recommendation for overweight people with sleep apnea.

Most people with sleep apnea are overweight. Excess weight can contribute significantly to the occurrence and severity of sleep apnea.

Sometimes weight loss of 5 or 6 pounds can have a significant impact on the problem. Therefore, weight loss is a common treatment recommendation made by sleep specialists.

There is no linear relationship between the amount of weight one loses and improvement in sleep apnea, so it is impossible to predict how much weight loss is needed in order to be helpful.

It is most common to find that apnea improves once the patient falls below a critical, “threshold” weight.

Weight loss often is difficult to achieve, and may not result in the therapeutic outcome desired. Therefore, weight loss recommendations often are complemented by recommendations for other treatments.


Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common effective treatment for sleep apnea. In this procedure, the patient wears a mask over the nose during sleep, and pressure from an air blower forces air through the nasal passages.

The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. Nasal CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or it is used improperly.

These treatments deliver room air to the sleeper’s nasal airway through a nose mask at a pressure that is sufficient to keep the upper airway open and facilitate normal breathing.

The machine must be used on a nightly basis, every time the patient sleeps, in order for it to be truly effective. This can be challenging for some people, who find it difficult to use the system regularly.

Others may experience “adverse effects” associated with nasal CPAP use, such as nasal congestion, dryness, or feelings of claustrophobia.

The difficulties one has accommodating to nasal CPAP can interfere with treatment compliance. Studies have shown that 20% - 60% of patients abandon the use of nasal CPAP despite the health consequences of doing so.

Variations of the CPAP device attempt to minimize side effects that sometimes occur, such as nasal irritation and drying, facial skin irritation, abdominal bloating, mask leaks, sore eyes, and headaches.

Some versions of CPAP vary the pressure to coincide with the person’s breathing pattern, and other CPAPs start with low pressure, slowly increasing it to allow the person to fall asleep before the full prescribed pressure is applied.

Dental appliances that reposition the lower jaw and the tongue have been helpful to some patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or who snore but do not have apnea. A dentist or orthodontist is often the one to fit the patient with such a device.

However, most doctors usually recommend treatment with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).


Some patients with sleep apnea may need surgery. Although several surgical procedures are used to increase the size of the airway, none of them is completely successful or without risks.

More than one procedure may need to be tried before the patient realizes any benefits.

There are several physical factors that can contribute to the occurrence of sleep apnea.

Excessive or redundant tissue in the upper airway (the part of the airway between the tip of one’s nose to the base of one’s tongue) can be one important causative factor.

Therefore, some specialists, known as “Ear, Nose, and Throat” doctors have developed several techniques that can be used to effectively treat snoring and sleep apnea.

Somnoplasty is a simple, bloodless procedure that is used to treat snoring by using needle-tip radiofrequency to minimize the soft tissue in the upper airway.

Somnoplasty is a procedure that uses radiowaves to reduce the size of some airway structures such as the uvula and the back of the tongue. This technique is being investigated as a treatment for apnea

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure used to remove excess tissue at the back of the throat (tonsils, uvula, and part of the soft palate). The success of this technique may range from 30 to 60 percent.

The long-term side effects and benefits are not known, and it is difficult to predict which patients will do well with this procedure. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) are two procedures that excise (cut out) or reduce excessive tissue in the back of the throat.

Like UPPP, LAUP may decrease or eliminate snoring but not eliminate sleep apnea itself. Elimination of snoring, the primary symptom of sleep apnea, without influencing the condition may carry the risk of delaying the diagnosis and possible treatment of sleep apnea in patients who elect to have LAUP.

To identify possible underlying sleep apnea, sleep studies are usually required before LAUP is performed.

Tracheostomy is used in persons with severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In this procedure, a small hole is made in the windpipe and a tube is inserted into the opening.

This tube stays closed during waking hours, and the person breathes and speaks normally. It is opened for sleep so that air flows directly into the lungs, bypassing any upper airway obstruction.

Although this procedure is highly effective, it is an extreme measure that is rarely used.

Other procedures: Patients in whom sleep apnea is due to deformities of the lower jaw may benefit from surgical reconstruction. Finally, surgical proced-ures to treat obesity are sometimes recommended for sleep apnea patients who are morbidly obese.

Some of the more common procedures include removal of adenoids and tonsils (especially in children), nasal polyps or other growths, or other tissue in the airway and correction of structural deformities.

Younger patients seem to benefit from these surgical procedures more than older patients.

Other surgical procedures such as genioglossus advancement, bimaxillary advancement, also may be attempted during the course of surgical treatment of sleep apnea.

Approximately 1/3 of patients who undergo surgical treatment for sleep apnea will realize improvement in respiration during sleep.

The well-documented relationship between obesity (overweight) and sleep apnea has led to the use of certain surgeries for obesity, known as bariatric surgery, used in the interest of treating some cases of sleep apnea.

Patients who are considering surgical treatments for sleep apnea should speak to their primary care doctors and/or Ear, Nose, & Throat doctors.

Thorough evaluation in an accredited sleep laboratory is appropriate before and after surgery in order to document the problem and improvement with treatment.

Oral Appliances

Snoring and mild sleep apnea may be treated with the use of an oral appliance. An oral appliance is a device that is worn over the teeth during sleep in order to keep the sleeper’s jaw fixed in a “forward” position.

Some devices also aid in maintaining a stationary position of the sleeper’s tongue. Oral appliances help to open the upper airway and facilitate airflow during sleep. A dental sleep specialist usually must fit these devices.

Self Care strategies for Living with sleep apnea

The best cure to sleep apnea is prevention. There are several ways to prevent one from having to develop sleep apnea and reduce the frequency of the attacks:

1. Many Sleep apnea patients are obese. Maintaining a healthy weight is a sure way to prevent the frequency of apnea episodes since it increases the volume of oxygen in the blood. Studies showed that a 10 percent decrease in weight would reduce the frequency of apnea episodes up to 26 percent.

2. Avoid or at least limit alcohol intake.

3. Avoid or limit the use of tranquilizers, sleeping pills.

4. Have time for enough sleep. Lack of sleep increase the frequency of apnea attacks.

5. Treat allergies and runny nose promptly.

6. Avoid sleeping on your back.

Sleep apnea is a serious disease. It could be just a symptom of other more serious illness such as hypertension and heart disease. Should you suspect having the symptoms, take time to visit your family physician. Early detection and diagnoses of sleep apnea could save your life. Stop counting those sheep!

Diet change strategies:

In the nutshell, a good night's sleep is essential to good health.

Studies say over 100 million Americans suffer from some form of insomnia.

But the good news is, you can easily improve your sleep with better sleep habits.

Also, it has been proved now that some foods have the power to affect our sleep. The affects can be positive as well as negative.

Some foods can increase our nervous simulation and prevent us from sleeping.

Drinking caffeinated beverages or xanthine in tea before bed time are example of such foods.

Also fizzy drinks and cigarettes have the same effect.

Basically, these foods stimualte neurochemicals that perk up the brain.

Other major factor responsible for a disturbed sleep is eating a heavy dinner before bedtime, it results in snoring, heavy breathing and reflux esophagitis.

Myth: The most common myth mass is, they believe alcohol helps in sleep.

But the fact is, alcohol may initially act as sedative but it interrupts normal sleep

patterns in the long run. Now, lets look at the other side of the story. There are certain foods which improve our sleep. These foods are rich in trytophan.

Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic and lulls us into restful sleep.

Eating carbohydrates rich in trytophan makes this calming amino acid more available to brain.

Foods containing trytophan that aid sleep are

. Milk
. Cheese
. Curd
. Potato
. Wheat
. Seafood
. Beans
. Sesame seeds
. Oatmeal
. Apricots
. Bananas

Tip: Avoid eating junk food and highly refined food at night because fibre-rich food increases serotonin availability, but processed carbs over stimulates insulin, which leads to disturbed sleep.

Other Bed time snacks can include:
. Whole grain cereal with milk
. Ice-cream
. Seasame seeds
. Oatmeal or rasin cookies
Tip: Lighter meals are more likely to give you a good night's sleep.

Vitamin & Nutrient Associations

Studies have shown a link between Vitamin B12 and other health conditions including insomnia. The body requires vitamin B12 to manufacture red blood cells and myelin. Myelin is the fatty lining around nerve cells. There has been a great deal of research into the effectiveness of vitamin B12 injections and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin B12 is a part of the natural diet of most of the Western countries, with the exceptions of Vegans. The vitamin is found in significant amounts in animal protein-foods including meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products. The small amounts of vitamin B12 present in these different foods are more than enough to provide a supply for a healthy diet.

Vegans, on the other hand, especially strict Vegans who do not allow any of these Vitamin B12 source foods into their diets, will eventually develop a dietary deficiency. The deficiency usually takes years to develop and B12 supplements can stave off that effect. Vitamin B12 acts along with folic acid and vitamin b6 to control different levels in the body. A deficiency can cause fatigue, whereas those who are not deficient may feel a significant energy boost upon taking additional B12.

Vitamin B12 injections have been used to treat sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Injections of 2,500 to 5,000 milligrams every two to three days has shown a significant improvement in the energy levels of those suffering from CFS. B12 deficiencies are not common and they are usually related to diet or malapsorption through the intestines. Both of which are treatable with dietary adjustments.

Doctor's recommend that vitamin supplements be used as a regular part of a healthy diet. Vitamin supplements whether including the B12 complex or otherwise, should not be used as the replacement for a healthy diet unless there is a total absence of the vitamin such as found in Vegan's dietary concerns.

Further reading through our articles on health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your sleep apnea sleep disorders problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.

You may find benefit from our information on detoxification As well as about detoxing because of change of diet

It may be due to difficulties with your digestive system that is causing your body to be starved of key nutrients, vitamins or minerals. In this case you may find useful answers by reviewing our article on Nutrition For Your Cells.

There is also more information here about why is nutrition such an issue nowadays?

It may be that your metabolism has slowed due to pressures that have been placed on your system through life in general or through specific “challenges” you have faced in the last few months or last few years. Review this by looking at our article about balancing your Metabolic Rate. We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

More Resources available about sleep apnea :

sleep disorders
Good quality sleep is a habit. If you make the changes above, don’t expect changes in your sleep pattern to occur overnight, give it time. And be forgiving of yourself. Nothing prevents a good nights sleep more than the increased sense of annoyance at not being able to go to sleep. So quit trying, get up and do something relaxing.

child sleep disorders
Childhood sleep disturbances affect not only the child but also the whole family. There is an abundance of different beliefs and lore on this topic. Sifting through the enormous amount of material, approaches, and opinions about kids' sleep can be daunting for parents.

There is not one correct way to deal with your child in regard to sleep. Each child is unique and has his own special set of circumstances and needs. What's important is for parents to identify what they feel comfortable with and what they feel is best for their child.

Women’s Sleep Habits & Problems
Sleep loss in women has reached epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, many women are unaware of the negative impact sleep problems can have on their health and performance. Identifying the unique complications that contribute to sleep problems in women is an important step in achieving better sleep.
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daily sleep requirements
It’s a basic necessity of life, as important to our health and well-being as air, food and water. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed, alert and ready to face daily challenges. When we don’t meet our daily sleep requirements, every part of our lives can suffer. Our jobs, relationships, productivity, health and safety (and that of those around us) are all put at risk.

Energy Quiz
In general, there are three levels of energy level, hyperthymic, even balanced and hypothymic. To figure out in which energy do you fall in, answer the following questions.
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Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or Ekbom’s syndrome is a misunderstood common condition which causes the legs and sometimes the arms to twitch just before going to sleep; this can cause problems with insomnia

Around one in twenty people suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS) during their life, it tends to affect women more than men especially pregnant women and middle aged women, other groups that tend to suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS) are those suffering from kidney disease, nerve diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and varicose veins

Free-Health-Book-Download Free Report Reveals Natural Insomnia Cures:
Living & Dealing with Sleep Disorders for your Health Success!

Free Health Book.

This report reveals the most common sleep disorders like sleep apnea, snoring, its affects on individuals and the remedies.

Click the link above or book cover to get your free Report & eCourse today!

Natural Sleep Aids & better sleep Tips
Free simple sleep aid recipes, therapies and how-to instructions for better sleep using massage, aromatherapy, oils, herbs, baths, comfort drinks, dream meanings, healthy sleep routines.... AND MORE.

Jet lag sleep disorder
One common problem with jet lag is that, for many people, the true effects of jet lag are not immediately apparent and it may take a day or two to "catch up" with you. In addition, the excitement of arriving at your holiday destination, or for an important business meeting, may also tend to mask the symptoms of jet lag. So, if you arrive at your destination feeling like a million dollars and throw yourself into your holiday or business activities - beware! Jet lag will almost certainly creep up and hit you on the back of the head just when you least expect it.

Statistics show that about 45% of adult’s snores from time to time while around 25% snores regularly. This is mostly considered as a problem that needs some intervention or treatment.

Generally, snoring is most common in men than women. Overweight people show more tendencies to snore than those within normal weight. Age appears to aggravate the situation as well.

We also feature new health articles & self care solutions every month in “Your Health Success” our FREE Health Magazine, so subscribe today to stay up-to-date!

Below here are examples of Health Success Results other people have had with using a self care strategy for dealing with sleep apnea:

We would be very interested to hear your result stories with your problem if you are using some of our nutrition products. To send us your story just fill out the form below

Share *YOUR* remedy & health success story!

We are on a world-wide mission to source and tell our readers about as many as possible of the natural remedies & self care strategies available, so please help us to grow and improve our health information on this subject.

If you have a proven home remedy or natural treatment or have a great Health Success story, we would love to share it with our readers.

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Introduction to Sleep Apnea 
Sleep apnea is one of several types of sleep disorders. People who have sleep disorder sleep poorly at night because they stop breathing many times during …

Understanding Sleep Apnea 
Numerous people deal with all types of sleep disorders and most people you come in to contact with will tell you that they have had periods of insomnia. …

Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea 
Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing is not continuous while you’re asleep. Your breathing stops temporarily and this pause in breathing can …

Click here to write your own.

What is a Sleep IQ Test?
The following true or false statements test what you know about sleep. Be sure to discuss the answers with your healthcare provider.
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