Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder that affects the way you breathe during sleep. It is characterized by repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway, leading to disrupted breathing and decreased oxygen levels in the blood. This occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway.
Many individuals with OSA are unaware of their symptoms, and it is often a bed partner who notices the loud snoring and pauses in breathing. Common symptoms of OSA include:
choking or gasping for air during sleep
awakening in the morning with a dry mouth or sore throat
excessive daytime sleepiness
OSA can have serious health implications if left untreated. It can lead to or exacerbate conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and mood disorders. Additionally, the frequent disruptions in sleep can result in poor daytime functioning, including impaired cognitive performance and increased accident risk.
Diagnosis & Treatment
A formal diagnosis of OSA is typically made through a sleep study, known as polysomnography. During this test, various parameters such as breathing patterns, oxygen levels, brain activity, and heart rate are monitored while the patient sleeps. Home-based sleep studies are also sometimes used for diagnosis.
The most common and effective treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves wearing a mask over the nose or both nose and mouth during sleep, which delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open. Other treatment options may include lifestyle modifications like weight loss, positional therapy (changing sleep position), oral appliances, and, in some cases, surgery to address anatomical issues.
OSA is often a chronic condition, so long-term management and compliance with treatment are crucial. Regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider and adjustments to treatment as needed are important for maintaining optimal health.