What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a breathing problem that only occurs when we sleep. The upper airway keeps blocking because the tongue and upper muscles in the throat relax causing an obstruction in breathing (“apnea”) lasting 10 – 60 seconds. This obstruction or pause in breathing occurs every 12 minutes and in severe cases as often as every 30 seconds. The pauses are followed by gasping, snoring, or thrashing around.
Who has Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
-OSA occurs in all age groups and both sexes but is more common in men. (It may be under-diagnosed in women.)
-Approximately 3 million Canadians have OSA: 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women.
-Incidence rises as we age with 25% of seniors (over 65) having OSA.
-People most likely to have or develop sleep apnea include those who snore loudly and also are overweight, or have high blood pressure, or have some physical abnormality in the nose, throat, or other parts of the upper airway.
-Sleep apnea seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis.
-Most people with OSA don’t know they have it, and are not treated.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea has already been described.
In Central Sleep Apnea, your brain fails to send the signals to inhale and exhale to the muscles that control your breathing. When your breathing is interrupted, the level of carbon dioxide in your blood rises, which may prompt you to breathe again, and possibly wake up. Patients with Central Sleep Apnea generally experience less sleepiness during the day than people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What are the most common Symptoms?
- Snoring and pauses in breathing
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- High blood pressure
- Morning headaches
- Poor judgment or concentration
Higher risk people include those with obesity, a thick neck, and those who drink alcohol prior to bedtime. Unfortunately, only 5% of patients are diagnosed and treated for their obstructive sleep apnea. Please visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. You may want to complete the Sleepiness Questionnaire, and bring it with you.
Ask us about our FREE Sleep Screening Program.
Health Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea
- Heart problems
- Heart attacks
- Poor quality of life
- High blood pressure
- Car accidents and work related accidents due to sleepiness
Currently, there is no cure for sleep apnea, so it is very important that you continue your therapy, whether by CPAP, BiPAP or oral appliances. If you stop therapy, your sleep apnea will come back.
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