Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), often referred to simply as sleep apnea, causes a person to have breathing difficulty while sleeping. Sometimes a person with OSA will have one or more pauses in their breathing while they sleep, and sometimes their breathing is just more shallow.
The reason that OSA causes difficulty breathing is that the soft tissues in the back of the throat and the tongue can block the airways to the lungs, resulting in the pauses and shallow breaths.
OSA is more common in men, people over the age of 65, and women after menopause. But it can also occur in children. Some people are at a higher risk of developing OSA, including those with the following:
- Enlarged tonsils
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Obesity/excessive weight
- Jaw problems (like a small or pulled back jaw)
What Are the Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Many people are not aware that they have sleep apnea, but the symptoms of it might be more obvious to a spouse, family member, or close friend who lives with them.
Symptoms that occur during sleep:
- Loud snoring that bothers those near you
- Choking or gasping
- Breathing pauses (observed by someone while you sleep)
- Sudden jerks or body movements
- Restlessness/tossing and turning
- Frequently waking throughout the night
Symptoms that occur while awake:
- Wake up feeling tired, even after several hours of sleep
- Headaches in the morning
- Sore or dry throat in the morning (occurs from breathing through mouth while sleeping)
- Sleepiness or fatigue during the day
- Mood swings and difficulty getting along with others
- Problems concentrating
Is OSA Dangerous?
OSA can be dangerous. The lack of sleep from OSA symptoms can result in falling sleep or trouble concentrating while driving. The periods of pauses in breathing with time can cause hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and even early death.
How is OSA Treated?
OSA is generally diagnosed with a sleep study, whether at a sleep center or with a test that can be done in your home. During this study, your heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels are monitored.
Once it is diagnosed, there are a number of ways to treat sleep apnea. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment method depending on the reason for your sleep apnea.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a machine that is commonly used to treat sleep apnea. It works like a compressor and has a mask that is attached to the face, covering the nose and/or mouth, and it continuously pushes air through your airways while you sleep. Learn more about CPAP here.
There are other devices and surgeries that can also help treat sleep apnea, depending on the cause of it. Oral appliances are another option to help keep the airway open at night.
Other things that can help sleep apnea include:
- If sleep apnea is due to excessive weight, losing weight can help and even make the OSA go away completely.
- Avoid alcohol at least 4 hours before going to bed.
- Try sleeping on your side. Use a pillow or another strategy to remind you not to sleep on your back.
If you think you have sleep apnea and would like to schedule a sleep study, call our office today.