Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) is a sleep disorder suffered by millions of people worldwide. It is the most common type of sleep apnea, the other two being central and complex apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is characterized by loud snoring and pauses in breathing while asleep. These pauses last for 10 seconds or more and is usually accompanied by blood oxygen saturation. It is then followed by awakening of the patient in order to breathe. Sometimes the sufferer is not fully awake and is not aware of the apnea attacks. In severe cases, the breathing pauses can occur for more than 100 times a night.
In obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, the muscles of the pharynx relax too much while asleep. It drops down to the floor of the mouth with the tissues pressing from the outside. The air stops entering the lungs and the person is suffocated.
Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA can increase your risk of having a heart attack by up to 23 times. Several studies show that OSA has been linked with majority of people who have suffered stroke. It is also a major etiology for hypertension, as most patients showed results of having sleep apnea. Treating OSA brings down blood pressure greatly with less medication.
Severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome can cause death to an individual. Some people with sleep apnea die in their sleep. Generally, people will conclude that the person died peacefully in his sleep. On the contrary, the person was probably struggling violently to breathe.
Other complications caused by OSA are heart failure and arrhythmia (heart beats too fast or too slow).
Loud snoring and pauses in breathing are major symptoms of sleep apnea. Extreme sleepiness and tiredness during the day is also an indicator of OSA. This is due to the poor quality of sleep caused by waking up many times a night. Lack of sleep could lead to depression, behavioral changes, energy and memory loss, irritability, and sexual dysfunction. There is also a high risk of car accidents because the individual feels extremely sleepy while driving. Lack of sleep reduces attentiveness on the road and safety is compromised.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is extremely common. It affects 18 million people in America and millions more across the globe. OSA is not something you can prevent from getting. If OSA is part of your family’s medical history, you are at risk of having it too. It can be acquired by people of all ages, even children as young as 3 years old. It is common to older people and to men than women.
OSA is mostly associated to people who are overweight. The excess tissue around their neck area increases the risk of the air passages being blocked. It also occurs on people with physical abnormalities in their air passages. This includes the throat, mouth and nose areas.
How do I know if it’s really Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
You can have all the symptoms but there is still a possibility that it’s not OSA. The surest way to find out is to go to a sleep clinic and undergo a test called polysomnogram. In this test, electrodes are placed in various points of your body. It allows monitoring of your breathing, heart rate, apnea attacks, and other body movements. A sleep clinic facility can be found in any major city around the world.