What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious, in some cases life-threatening condition that effects conservatively 2% of women and 4% of men. It is often confused with snoring, but is actually an interruption in breathing for periods greater than 10 seconds while you sleep.
This is usually most obvious to the sufferer’s bed partner, because there are long pauses in breathing (and snoring), broken up by loud gasps for air, then snoring and then silence again as the process repeats itself. This process can often occur 50 or more times an hour, which places enormous stress on the apneic’s cardiovascular well being. Complications resulting from untreated OSA include hypertension, daytime sleepiness, loss of productivity, depression, headaches, physical exhaustion, heart attacks and strokes.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are several anatomical factors that can contribute to your OSA that are typically closely related to weight and age. Apneas occur when the tissues in your upper airway close off, due to increased loss of muscle tone during sleep. Major points of obstruction include your nose, soft palate, tongue and upper airway.
How Do I Find Out If I have OSA?
Your physician will most likely give you a brief questionairre and a physical examination. If your physician suspects that you might suffer from sleep apnea, he or she will advise you to undergo a sleep study, known as a Polysomnography.