Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep disorder. It affects more than 12 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. When a person suffers from OSA, the muscles in their throat relax during sleep and this makes breathing difficult. The brain senses the breathing difficulty and will wake the person up to resume breathing. If the brain wakes the person many times throughout the night, this can result in fragmented sleep with poor quality. Untreated OSA can lead to many medical problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and depression. But adequate treatment can reduce or eliminate these risks. In many cases, the patient feels the benefits, such as reduced sleepiness and better mood, quickly after treatment begins.
Symptoms of OSA
- Snoring interrupted by pauses, then gasps, is a sign that breathing stops and restarts. Sometimes, patients will remember waking up short of breath or gasping.
- Falling asleep at the wrong times, such as at work or while driving.
- Trouble concentrating, or becoming forgetful, irritable, anxious, or depressed.
- Morning headaches or nausea, frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate at night, and loss of interest in sex.
- Being overweight or having enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.
- Certain birth defects that affect the size and shape of the throat, face, or chin such as Down Syndrome.
- While asleep, children with OSA may snore or squeak, or have difficulty breathing.
- Older children who have OSA may seem sluggish and may perform poorly in school. Sometimes they are labeled “slow” or “lazy”.
- Some cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, or crib death) may be due to OSA, although how often this is true is still uncertain and research continues.
What to Do
If you suspect that you or a loved one suffers from OSA, you should see your healthcare provider, or one of our board certified sleep specialists. As a patient of our center, you will speak to experts who will ask detailed questions about your sleep and daytime symptoms. You may be asked to spend a night or two in one of our sleep clinics to monitor your sleep. A sleep study will show if you have OSA and will help define the best treatment for you.