Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a very common and potentially serious sleep disorder.  In OSA there are pauses in breathing that occur during sleep related to intermittent blockage or collapse of the upper airway, which results in brief awakenings from sleep.  A bed partner may observe loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep (apnea) or snorting noises.  The OSA sufferer may awaken during the night choking or grasping.  A dry mouth and morning headache often occur.  In most cases, the individual with OSA falls back to sleep quickly and doesn’t recall the events, but some people with OSA also suffer from insomnia related to the frequent disruptions of sleep. 

 

These airway obstructions can occur dozens of time per night and cause an elevated heart rate and blood pressure during sleep.  Long term cardiovascular consequences of OSA include hypertension, heart attack, atrial fibrillation and stroke. Frequently noted are non-restorative sleep, fatigue, daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, morning headache, depressed mood, memory problems, irritability, frequent urination during the night and an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.


OSA often goes undiagnosed, and one study showed that more than 80% of people with OSA have yet to be evaluated.  If you think you might have OSA, please discuss it with your doctor. The diagnosis is easily established by doing a sleep study (polysomnography).  Treatment of OSA may improve your health and quality of life.

 

Treatment options for OSA included pressure therapy with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), upper airway surgery and oral appliances (mouthpieces).  Treatment is aimed at restoring normal breathing during sleep.  Other medical problems may also be helped including hypertension, heart disease, depression, gastro-esophageal reflux and diabetes.

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