Obstructive Sleep Apnea describes a condition that involves frequent nighttime awakenings due to the airway partially or fully collapsing throughout the night when the soft tissue in the throat relaxes. When the oxygen levels drop enough to wake the patient they resume breathing normally. Though the awakenings are brief, they prevent the patient from attaining restful, restorative sleep. If left untreated, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be result in serious health conditions.
There are several levels of breathing obstruction.
Apnea occurs when there is a complete or near complete pause in breathing for at least 10 seconds.
Hypopnea is known a decreased airflow for at least 10 seconds.
Respiratory Effort Related Arousal does not qualify as apnea or hypopnea but limits breathing and results in an increased effort.
There are several risk factors that increase a patient’s likelihood of developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which include:
Being overweight- fatty deposits may affect the airway.
Not everyone with OSA is overweight though.
Having a large neck- A thick neck may indicate excess weight which may narrow the airway.
High blood pressure
Narrowed airway- a narrow throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids may block airways.
Family history of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Smoking and use of alcohol or sedatives.
Chronic nasal congestion.
Old age, male gender, post-menopausal women, and minorities- all listed groups have higher likelihoods of having Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea may experience many troublesome symptoms other than breathing disturbances during sleep. If you experience dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, night sweats, insomnia, poor concentration and attention, anxiety, irritability, morning headaches, memory problems, or sleep walking and night terrors, your symptoms may be caused by OSA. These symptoms vary in severity from case to case.