Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In simple terms, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when a person’s breathing stops during sleep because the airway collapses and prevents air from getting into the lungs.

OSA is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. It usually starts with snoring, when the air can’t flow easily through the mouth or nose. During OSA the muscles at the back of the throat relax too much to allow normal breathing, causing the airway to narrow or close hampering the breathing for 10 seconds or more. This causes the oxygen levels in the body to fall.  The brain recognizes that it is not getting enough oxygen and rouses the person from sleep so that you can reopen the airway. 

Such episodes can occur 5 to 30 times or more every hour all night long. These disruptions impair your ability to reach deep, restful sleep phases. Sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of men and nearly 10% of women. It can occur at any age but people over 50 and overweight people are more susceptible. If left untreated, OSA can result in hypertension, stroke, diabetes etc. An ENT specialist will do a physical examination of the back of the throat, mouth and nose for extra tissue or abnormalities note your symptoms and advise an appropriate course of action. Lifestyle changes, mechanical therapy, surgery are some of the ways of managing OSA.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. There are 2 main types.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of apnea. OSA occurs when a person’s airway becomes partially or completely blocked repeatedly while they sleep. This causes the breathing to become abnormally shallow or absent as the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder open the airway. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp or body jerk.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): In this type the airway is not blocked but the brain center, the brain stem, which controls a person’s breathing fails to signal the muscles to breathe.

Snoring is common and almost everyone snores on occasion. It does not mean that one has obstructive sleep apnea. Even though both are closely related but they are not identical. Not all patients who snore have sleep apnea but all patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea will count loud snoring as one of its major symptoms.

Sleep apnea is just not a bad night’s sleep but much more. Sleep is crucial for one’s mental and physical health. A restless night’s sleep can impact your mood and work performance the next day. You can feel lethargic and may have memory problems. Sleep apnea can give rise to dangerous long-term maladies like high blood pressure and heart problems because during an apneic episode the body experiences drops in oxygen. This puts a strain on the cardiovascular system damaging the heart. It can also increase your risk of becoming insulin-resistant and developing type-2 diabetes.