Most people are familiar with sleep disorders like insomnia. But interestingly enough, the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It is estimated to affect about 1 billion of the world’s 7.3 billion people between the ages of 30 and 69 according to the AASM 2012 diagnostic criteria.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which breathing ceases for short periods of time while sleeping. Let’s break it down to have a deeper understanding: Normally, air flows easily from the mouth and nose into the lungs at all times. But in Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the normal flow of air is repeatedly stopped throughout the sleep cycle.
What Causes It?
Although there are many forms of sleep apnea, OSA is the most common, appearing mainly in the elderly and those who are overweight.
Some of the main causes can be obesity, swollen tonsils, and health conditions like endocrine disorders or heart disease.
A person’s change in weight, as well as their sleeping position, can also have a noticeable change in the symptoms that could affect a person. It can even lead to a more severe case of sleep apnea.
Since the airway space in the throat becomes too narrow, the flow of air becomes obstructed, which often leads to snoring, the most common symptom of sleep apnea. Airflow squeezing into the compressed airway space causes this.
Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues such as:
- Heart disease
How To Identify It?
Decreased oxygen supply to the brain and other parts of the body, leads to poor sleep quality, which can cause tiredness and lack of focus in the daytime.
People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea may also experience the following symptoms:
- Forgetfulness and Drowsiness
- Hyperactivity in children
- Poor Performance
- Leg swelling (aka edema)
How To Treat It?
Some cases of OSA can be resolved by making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, reducing sedative use, and sleeping on the side.
Other treatment methods are also available including:
- Nasal Decongestants
Nasal decongestants are highly effective in mild OSA. They can help relieve snoring.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) involves the removal of excess tissues from the back of the throat. UPPP is the most common type of surgery for OSA, and it helps relieve snoring. However, this surgery hasn’t been proven to eliminate sleep apnea, and it can have complications.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is an effective therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine uses a hose and mask or nosepiece to deliver consistent air pressure, and it is the first line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
CPAP is delivered through a face mask that smoothly delivers positive airflow to ensure that the airways open at night. The positive airflow aids the airways open. CPAP is an extremely effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
This therapy can effectively manage the symptoms and serious side-effects caused by OSA. If you are consistent with the treatment, it should help relieve other health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Positional Therapy
Since sleeping on the back can make sleep apnea worse for some people, positional therapy is used to help those with sleep apnea learn to sleep in other positions. Positional therapy and the use of CPAP can be discussed with a professional at a sleep center.
Are You Having OSA Symptoms?
If you have OSA symptoms, you should see a doctor right away. It’s impossible to cure sleep apnea without figuring out what’s causing it first. The doctor can suggest an overnight sleep study to assess your sleep, including your breathing, if appropriate.
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