What is obstructive sleep apnea?
OSA afflicts 20 million adult men and women in the United States. People who have OSA stop breathing repeatedly during sleep because the airway collapses.
Airway collapse may be due to such factors as a large tongue, extra tissue in the airway, or decreased muscle tone holding the airway open. As a result, air is prevented from getting into the lungs. These pauses in breathing can happen 30 times or more per hour. When healthy sleep is interrupted in this way, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other serious health conditions may increase.
How do I know if I have OSA?
OSA can occur in men, women and children of all ages and sizes. Most people who have OSA do not realize they suffer from the condition. Often, it is someone else who witnesses the first signs of OSA.If you or someone you know snores regularly and has one or more of the following symptoms, it may be OSA. Consider all of the following that apply, and share this list with your doctor.
Key signs and symptoms include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud or disruptive snoring
- Gasping or choking during sleep
Other common symptoms include:
- Grogginess and morning headaches
- Frequent urination at night
- Depression and irritability
- Large neck or crowding of the upper airway
- Post-menopausal women
What happens if OSA is not treated?
Possible increased risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease and heart attack
- Fatigue-related motor vehicle and work accidents
- Decreased quality of life
What is the treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The most common treatment is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), pronounced "see-PAP." Other less common treatments include surgery and oral appliances, which may be effective in certain individuals. Any treatments should include weight loss if needed, exercise, and avoidance of alcohol, sedatives, and hypnotics.
PAP therapy will relieve the airway obstruction that occurs while you sleep. PAP treatment can dramatically improve the life of someone diagnosed with sleep apnea. When you wear the system every night during sleep and optimum therapy is achieved, you may experience the following benefits of treatment:
- Increased energy level and attentiveness during the day
- Fewer morning headaches
- Reduced irritability
- Improved memory
- Less waking during the night to go to the bathroom
- Increased ability to exercise
- Increased effectiveness at home or at work
- Improved overall quality of life
You will need to use your treatment every night while you sleep. If you do not, you will return to your previous level of snoring, sleep apnea, and daytime tiredness.
Untreated sleep apnea also has been shown to co-exist with a number of other medical conditions, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart beat
Sleep apnea also may contribute to driving and work-related accidents.