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What is sleep apnea?

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is a breathing disorder occurring during sleep characterized by a blockage of the upper airway and complete pauses in breathing. These pauses, called "apneas", typically last from a minimum of 10 seconds to several minutes in severe cases.  These breathing cessations can occur from five to dozens of times each hour during the night. In fact, the severity of the disorder is graded by the number of apnic events that occur each hour. This number is called  the apnea/hypopnea index or "AHI".  A 5-15 AHI is considered mild, 16-30 deemed moderate, while an AHI over 30 is judged as severe OSA.

How is OSA related to "Snoring"

Simple snoring is caused by vibration of the oral and throat soft tissues during sleep breathing as air passes through the airway to the lungs. The airflow, although possibly impeded to some degree, does not completely stop or reduce enough in volume to cause blood oxygen levels to diminish significantly. Snoring is not only a significant disturbance to the snorer's bed partner and social nuisance, recent research has cited it as a likely precursor to OSA as well as a condition that increases the risk of stroke. As snorers age and physical health and fitness deteriorates, obstructive sleep apnea incidence increases. It is estimated that over 70% of loud snorers have some form of sleep apnea. The link is so prevalent that health care professionals are considered remiss if they only offer solutions to snoring without first ruling out the possible co-existence of the more important and dangerous condition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

What are the dangers of sleep apnea?

The basic danger of Obstructive Sleep Apnea stems from the lack of sufficient oxygen saturation of the blood. Oxygen "desaturation" of the blood robs your vital organs, heart, brain, kidneys etc. and other tissues of this essential element eventually leading to increased risk of a host of severe medical problems.

(Including but not limited to)

 

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke (70% of stroke victims have OSA)
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Increase risk of auto and work related accidents (secondary to resulting drowsiness and fatigue, increase risk of 7 times)

 

The bottom line is that untreated OSA is a dangerous and potentially deadly condition, that can take up to 12.5 years off normal life expectancy. By contrast, smoking reduces life expectancy 7-10 years.

OSA also increases cancer risk by a factor of 5 and premature death by nearly 50%.

What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?

 

  • Heavy / loud snoring
  • Stoppages of breathing during sleep observed by partner
  • Daytime fatigue, sleepiness, lack of concentration and energy
  • Memory loss
  • Depression and irritability
  • Obesity (especially large neck size and BMI > 30)
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Morning headaches
  • Teeth grinding