Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Snoring can be indicative of a breathing problem. It is cause by the passage of air through a narrowed airway. 10 to 30% of the adult population snores. For 5 out of 100, this nightly snoring is a sign of a more serious disorder: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Obstructive sleep apnea is the partial or full obstruction of the airway during sleep. As the opening begins to narrow, your effort to breathe will increase in strength. This change in effort will alert the brain causing an arousal from sleep at which time the muscles will respond and normal breathing will resume. This is recurrent and happens tens to hundreds of times throughout the night. The causes of OSA are numerous. They include, but are not limited to, a smaller than normal jaw, enlarged tonsils, a large tongue, or tissue that partially obstruct the airway passage. OSA often occurs in overweight people, where fatty tissue can affect the size or shape of the breathing passage. One person can have several of these conditions present.

Untreated OSA can have very significant and severe consequences, contributing to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, depression, and even death. The most common complaint is excessive daytime sleepiness which can affect driving, work, school, and your personal life. Treating OSA can lessen or even eliminate many of these risks. Often, the benefit of treatment can be felt by the patient shortly after its initiation.

Diagnosis of OSA begins with a visit to a healthcare professional. Your medical history will be reviewed, and your sleeping and daytime behavior will be assessed. A sleep specialist can evaluate your specific signs and symptoms through the use of detailed questionnaires. An overnight polysomnogram (PSG) will be used to accurately observe what occurs during your sleep. The collected information will be interpreted by a sleep specialist and the appropriate recommendations will be made.

Treatment options include:

  1. Positive Airway Pressure (PAP). PAP is a very effective form of therapy that utilizes positive airway pressure delivered through a nasal and / or oral mask to hold the airway open during sleep.
  2. Oral Appliances. The appliances are designed to help prevent blockage by holding the tongue and / or jaw forward. This type of therapy can be very effective in mild cases.
  3. Surgery. Several surgeries are being performed, some very effective in treating snoring and others helpful in the reduction of OSA.

General recommendations to consider are weight loss to an ideal body weight, avoiding alcohol, sedatives and hypnotics prior to bedtime, and avoiding sleeping in the supine (back) position.


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