Many people who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) stop and start breathing over and over during the night, but are not aware of it.
In OSA, the throat briefly collapses, causing pauses in breathing. This collapse may occur for several reasons, including:
- The throat muscles and tongue relax more than usual during sleep
- The tonsils and adenoids are too large, blocking the airway
- Excess weight results in extra soft tissue in the throat, making it harder to keep the airway open
- Abnormal body structure, in which the shape of the head and neck results in a smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area
Effects on the Body
OSA deprives the body of adequate oxygen and restful sleep. It is essentially in a heightened state of stress throughout the night, increasing stress hormone production. This over-stimulates the brain, heart and cardiovascular system instead of letting it rest, leading to serious medical conditions, including:
- heart attack and stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Irregular heartbeat
- Metabolic syndrome
- Low testosterone levels in males
Signs & Symptoms
OSA symptoms are commonly attributed to many other conditions. If you suffer from any combination of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Morning headaches
- Fatigue during the day
- Loud snoring at night
- Sore throat in the morning
The only way to definitively diagnose OSA is during a sleep study at a sleep lab such as the one located in Floyd Memorial’s Sleep Disorders Center.
Once a patient has been diagnosed, there are several types of treatment available. Some of the most common are:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (CPAP)-a mask that fits over the nose and/or mouth and gently blows air into the airway to help keep it open while sleeping.
- Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure device (BiPAP) is also sometimes used. BiPAP is similar to CPAP therapy, however the BiPAP device features dual pressure settings, allowing patients to get more air into, and out of the lungs without the normal muscular activity needed to do so.
- Oral devices made by a dentist can move the jaw forward to prevent airway collapse during sleep.
- Surgery- A Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), involves removing tissue from the rear of the mouth and top of the throat, while also removing the tonsils and adenoids.