Obstructive Sleep Apnea also known as OSA or sometimes referred to as just sleep apnea is a medical condition that affects approximately 4% of men and 2% of women, and causes a brief cessation of breathing during sleep.
The abnormal breathing leads suffers to often awake from their sleep cycles prematurely and prevent them from getting into a deeper sleep that is also called reparative sleep. Reparative sleep is the phase of your sleep cycle that allows the body and mind to heal and rest, rejuvenating and giving you renewed energy in the mornings and throughout your day.
What is alarming about OSA is that 95% of people who have this condition go undiagnosed and untreated. Obstructive Sleep Apnea suffers are not usually aware of their condition, because it happens when they are asleep and for the most part unconscious. However, a variety of health consequences are subsequently experienced due to the condition and they often give us clues as to what is happening at night. The seemly unrelated issues such as; loud disruptive snoring, choking or gasping on awakening, excessive daytime sleepiness, dry mouth, headaches, poor concentration, impaired work performance, and frequent bathroom trips during the night are all indeed indicative of an underlying sleep disorder such as OSA.
During rest and relaxation, the throat muscles in a person who has sleep apnea tend to relax to the point where they collapse and obstruct in the flow of air. After 10-30 seconds of not breathing, and due to lack of oxygen, one will experience a rouse in their level of sleep. As the muscles regain their tone, the obstruction is relieved and the person can breathe again. The cycle will then repeat itself, sometimes up to 20-30 times per hour. Yet still, many people are unaware of this happening, and it is more often than not that a sleep partner that will report a problem before the sufferer does.
There are certain risks to having undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and with modern scientific sleep studies we are learning more about just how hard it is on the body and mind of a sufferer of OSA. For example, increased pressure on ones airways will also increase chance of heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. In addition to this, new studies have shown a direct correlation with OSA and Type 2 diabetes as well as certain types of cancers. Decreased quality of life from mental fog, forgetfulness, work place accidents, depression and anxiety can prevent enjoyment of experiences.
Thankfully a good night’s sleep is only a breath away! Advancements in treatment and therapy for OSA patients have changed people’s lives. CPAP machines are 80-90% effective in relieving symptoms of OSA, through a revolutionary system of providing patients with a continuous positive airway pressure, through a nasal mask that is worn during sleep. The air gently keeps airways open and allows for normally breathing while finally getting the deep sleep that is needed for maintenance of health and longevity.
Other treatment options for OSA include; weight loss, avoidance of alcohol, smoking cessation, surgery and oral appliances. Most importantly, if you are concerned about yourself or your partner, you should always consult your family physician. Most likely, you will be asked to complete a sleepiness questionnaire, to update your medical records and perform a physical examination. If the preliminary assessment is positive you can be referred to us for further free testing.
It is important to recognize that although, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious condition if left undiagnosed or untreated. There are many options of OSA management available to sufferers and once on therapy, your quality and enjoyment of life returns!