Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep breathing disorder in which a person stops breathing while they sleep. The tissues in the throat collapse, cutting off the airway despite efforts to breathe.
Apnea is defined as "a cessation of airflow for 10 seconds or more." This can occur dozens and sometimes even hundreds of times an hour.
Typically, someone with sleep apnea snores heavily, and then stops breathing while still sleeping. A sleeping partner would observe that the person is struggling to breathe but there is no snoring sound. These periods of stopped breathing are followed by a gasping or choking sound. The person with sleep apnea will partially awaken in order to breathe, leading to fragmented, non-refreshing sleep which can be the cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
The even greater concern is that when the airway collapses and oxygen is cut off, the body goes into a fight-or-flight response, putting a strain on the heart and increasing blood pressure. Over time, this can wear out the heart and lead to heart disease or a stroke.
Even though sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of age, weight, and gender, these factors indicate a higher likelihood of having sleep apnea:
Often the person with sleep apnea is totally unaware of the problem and will often deny the fact that he / she snores, but the bed partner will observe:
Determining if you have a sleep breathing disorder, or just snoring is as easy as consulting a health care provider who is trained in sleep disorders. Normally, the evaluation will begin with the STOP BANG Quiz and from there it will be determined if a sleep study is necessary to determine what type of sleep disorder a person might be suffering from. The three most common sleep breathing disorders are:
Sleep apnea is measured by the number of times you stopped or reduced breathing per hour. Together, these events are counted and known as the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI).
A sleep study will measure your AHI as well as the drop in your blood-oxygen levels to help determine the severity of the disease. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your sleep study results will indicate mild, moderate or severe sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and if left untreated, could reduce life expectancy by 10 years or more. With 95% of those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed, sleep apnea may be the number one cause of death. Learn more about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea.
If you or a loved one has several risk factors above, it is important to consult a health care provider trained in sleep disorders to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea.
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I was afraid I would choke during my sleep. I would wake up exhausted. I used to pull over to the side of the road to rest ,so as not to fall asleep at the wheel of my car. I was scared to drive because of my sleep apnea. Let alone sleeping in another room bcause of the loud snoring that prevented my wife from having a good night's sleep. Not anymore ,thanks to Dr. Stern and my oral appliance. Now I wake up more refreshed without feeling like I am choking in my sleep. I am way less tired during the day and don't need to take my power naps anymore. Best of all I'm back in the same bed with my wife!
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