An Introduction to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that interrupts breathing during sleep and is usually marked by heavy snoring and gasping through the night and excessive tiredness during the day. Sound familiar? Approximately 20 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea and many don't even know it!

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is a common yet often undiagnosed sleep disorder that afflicts 20 million adult men and women in the U.S. People who have OSA stop breathing repeatedly during sleep because the soft tissue in the throat or "airway" collapses, cutting off the flow of air to the lungs. Breathing is often interrupted hundreds of times each night, usually accompanied by heavy snoring and gasps for breath. Surprisingly, the person afflicted with OSA rarely realizes it is happening. However it can keep a concerned bedmate up all night worrying.

What causes OSA?

Airway collapse may be due things like decreased muscle tone in the area that holds the airway open, extra fleshy tissue in the airway, or a large tongue. As a result, air is prevented from getting into the lungs. These pauses in breathing can occur 30-or-more times every hour hour, robbing the brain and body of the precious oxygen that supports alertness, mental sharpness and energy during the day. And, left untreated, sleep apnea can put one at risk of developing a variety of serious health conditions.

What are the symptoms of OSA?

The most common symptom of OSA is snoring, but not all people with OSA snore. There are several symptoms of OSA that are easy to identify at home, without diagnostic testing:

  • Excessive sleepiness (use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to evaluate your sleepiness)
  • Snoring (people with OSA usually snore but not always)
  • Witnessed apneas or irregular breathing during sleep (gasping, long pauses, etc. A spouse or partner may notice these)
  • Impaired concentration
  • Impaired memory
  • Morning headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction

High blood presure (hypertension) and decreased blood oxygen levels are also common symptoms for people with sleep apnea, but these are not as easily detected in a home setting as those listed above.

Can OSA be treated?

The good news is that sleep apnea is easily diagnosed and can be treated safely and effectively. To learn more about OSA Treatment Options click here. Those who have been diagnosed and commit to therapy consistently sleep soundly, regain energy, and enjoy brighter days. Benefits of therapy include:

  • Increased energy and attentiveness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decreased risk of strokes and heart attacks
  • Increased effectiveness at home and at work
  • Improved overall quality of life
  • It's not uncommon to hear someone on OSA therapy (or their bedmate) claim, "I got my life back!"

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