Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Sleep should be a time to rejuvenate both body and mind. For people with obstructive sleep apnea, though, sleep is a restless process that includes moments where you are literally fighting for air.  

When you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),  your sleep is disrupted by a dangerous chain reaction. This condition causes the muscles in your throat to intermittently relax while you’re sleeping. Your tongue falls against the soft palate and your soft palate and uvula fall against the back of your throat, a collapse that can completely block your airway.

When your brain realizes you aren’t getting enough air, it jolts you awake, but the wakefulness is usually not enough for you to be aware of what happened. A few moments later you return to sleep, only to have your breathing cease again, then your brain jerk you awake. This unhealthy cycle can take place anywhere from five to over a hundred times an hour, as many as hundreds of times over the course of a night.

The stop-start nature of OSA carries serious medical risks and has many negative side effects. Between the loud snoring that tends to accompany obstructive sleep apnea and the sounds of your intermittent struggle for air, your partner may also become sleep-deprived or opt to sleep on the couch. It’s no way to sleep or to live.

The good news is that OSA is very treatable. If you suspect you have obstructive sleep apnea, you should be tested for sleep apnea as soon as possible.  

What Are The Signs Of OSA?

It is possible to be completely unaware that you have obstructive sleep apnea because the unhealthy breathing cycle takes place on a subconscious level. People with OSA generally have no memory of the times they are unable to breathe or the moments they awake with a start.

Often, it’s your partner that first notices the signs of OSA. If they observe episodes where you stop breathing at night and then bolt awake—choking and gasping or with a snort—you should be assessed for obstructive sleep apnea.

Other signs you may have OSA include:

  • Depression or irritability
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Falling asleep during routine activities, from watching TV to driving
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Headache in the morning
  • Insomnia, tossing and turning or light sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Snoring loudly
  • Decreased libido
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Waking up with dry mouth or a sore throat

As if this multitude of side effects weren’t enough, OSA puts you at greater risk of:

  • Coronary disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke

Who Gets Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. There are, however, some factors that make it more common, beginning with gender. Of the 30 million adults in America with OSA, the majority are men. Nonetheless, obstructive sleep apnea can occur in women, especially after they have undergone menopause.

You’re also more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea if you have:

  • A narrow airway
  • Excessive overbite
  • A deviated nasal septum
  • Diabetes
  • A larger-than-average tongue
  • High blood pressure
  • A tendency to sleep on your back
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • A smoking habit
  • Excess tissue at the back of the throat

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

Should you suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, one of the fastest and most affordable ways to test for it is by using the ApneaMed home sleep test. You can use our home sleep test unit from the comfort of your own home and have your obstructive sleep apnea accurately assessed.

The home sleep test checks for sleep apnea by assessing your blood oxygen saturation, your respiratory effort, heart rhythm, and breathing pattern while you sleep with our test unit. Once the overnight test is completed, you simply need to mail our test unit back.

With your information gathered by the sleep apnea home sleep test, our sleep physicians will be able to analyze whether or not you have sleep apnea and email you the results of your test.

If it turns out you do have obstructive sleep apnea, receiving the right treatment is the next step.

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated?

In some cases, obstructive sleep apnea is addressed with a dental appliance that adjusts the lower jaw and tongue for better airflow. However, the most reliable treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is called automatic positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment.

The AutoPAP treatment uses a machine with a small quiet motor that draws in air, filters impurities and delivers air to the user through a hose attached to a mask or nasal pillow. It delivers pressurized air to clear any obstructions from the airway. The pressurized air will adjust to the level you need, allowing you to rest more comfortably. There is also a humidifier to help ensure that your upper airway does not become dried out with the increased air pressure.

Countless people have found great relief through treating obstructive sleep apnea. They report a boost in energy and a decrease in daytime sleepiness and other negative side effects. Often, some of the greatest relief is reported by their partners, who no longer have to experience nights full of wakefulness and worry.

If you’re ready to take control of your health, thriving by day and night, we encourage you to contact the sleep experts at ApneaMed. We can help you find out if you have OSA and help you start breathing easier.