Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when an individual stops breathing repeatedly during sleep. These bouts last typically between 10-30 seconds. The obstruction is caused by the relaxation of soft tissue muscles that block your airway. As a result, oxygen levels in the blood decrease and the individual wakes up intermittently throughout the night. Many who have OSA are not aware that they have this problem. It is the bed partners who notice these dangerous breathing episodes or constant turning. Over time and left untreated, the sleep pattern is disrupted, causing the individual to feel excessive daytime fatigue and sleepiness.
Although there are many signs and symptoms, it can be tricky to identify Obstructive Sleep Apnea on your own. Since the most prominent symptoms occur when you are sleeping, often close family members and friends will be the ones to tell you they have seen you gasp for air during sleep, deal with excessive daytime sleepiness, see frequent urination at night or suffer from obesity to name a few. Common symptoms can be seen below:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common and treatable disease that highly goes underdiagnosed. According to the Government of Canada, 23% of Canadian adults who reported being told by a health professional that they have Sleep Apnea also reported that they were never referred to a sleep laboratory for overnight testing, while 77% reported that they were referred for overnight testing. OSA can occur in people of all ages, including kids.
When you are awake, throat muscles help keep your airway stiff and open so air can flow into your lungs. When you sleep, these muscles are more relaxed. Normally, the relaxed throat muscles don’t prevent your airway from staying open to allow air into your lungs.
The major causes of OSA are mechanical or structural abnormalities in the airway such as:
Other probable causes:
The gold standard and most effective treatment are CPAP Therapy. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP therapy is a machine that pushes pressurized air into the airway during sleep keeping soft tissue from collapsing. Breathing returns to normal, snoring stops, resulting in more restful sleep. Over time, you will feel energetic, and alert, and see an improvement in your quality of life and sleep health.
Other common treatments include oral appliances and surgery. Oral appliances are often not covered by health plans, can be extremely uncomfortable and only suitable for mild and moderate OSA. Surgery removes soft tissue inside the mouth. This process can be very painful has a great tendency to grow back resulting in a short-term choice.
Not seeking treatment for OSA will 100% affect your quality of life. The consequences range from annoying to life-threatening. Surely you can ignore the lack of energy and restfulness at first, but over time, these symptoms will magnify and manifest in more serious ways. Over time, it can turn into chronic headaches, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and high blood pressure. Untreated OSA patients are 3 times more likely to have automobile accidents.
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