Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is very common and potentially life-threatening medical disorder that prevents airflow during sleep. More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and many are not receiving treatment.
OSA occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat repeatedly collapses and blocks the airway during sleep. These partial reductions and complete pauses in breathing typically last between 10 to 30 seconds but can persist for one minute or longer. These pauses can happen hundreds of times a night, leading to abrupt reductions in oxygen levels. The brain alerts the body to its lack of oxygen, causing a brief arousal from sleep that restores normal breathing. The result is a fragmented quality of sleep that often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness (ESS). Most people with OSA may snore loudly and frequently, with periods of silence when airflow is reduced or blocked. Then they make choking, snorting, or gasping sounds when their airway reopens. You can imagine if this happens hundreds of times a night, then you may wake up in the morning feeling unrefreshed.
In addition to snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can cause memory loss, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive and impaired concentration. Sleep apnea patients have a much higher risk of stroke and heart problems, such as heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Sleep apnea patients are also more likely to be involved in an accident at the workplace or while driving.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea patient are often older, obese and have thick necks, but men and women of any age or body type can have sleep apnea. The sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain. Listed below are some common signs of sleep apnea:
- Unintentionally falling asleep during the day
- General daytime sleepiness
- Unrefreshed sleep
- Waking from sleep with a choking sound or gasping for breath
- Loud snoring
If you have have these symptoms, you might have sleep apnea. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale can help you further determine if you likely have sleep apnea.
Untreated OSA Increases Your Risk For:
- Driving and work-related accidents
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Memory loss
- Morning headaches
- Impaired concentration
- Decreased sex drive