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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that causes the sufferer to stop and start breathing repeatedly throughout the night. The muscles in the throat relax, blocking the airway, causing the individual to literally stop breathing. These moments without breathing are called apneas. Individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea may begin to snore soon after falling asleep. The snoring continues, often elevating in volume, until interrupted by a period of silence indicating that the individual has stopped breathing. Usually the individual will then arouse with a snort, take a large breath, and return to the pattern of snoring.

Causes/Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

OSA can affect anyone, but is more common in older adults and people who are overweight. Generally, the throat muscles keep the throat and airway open, but in the case of sleep apnea, the throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs.

Causes of an obstructed airway include:

  • Shape of head and neck
  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Abnormally relaxed throat muscles and tongue

Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Irregular sleep hours
  • Snoring
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Nasal congestion, nasal blockages and nasal irritants
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Sedation medications
  • Alcohol

Possible symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed
  • Depression
  • Loud snoring
  • Problems with memory
  • Morning headaches
  • Changes in personality
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Restless sleep

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is highly treatable. Most individuals find they experience relief from using one or sometimes a combination of treatments. Mild to moderate sleep apnea can often be treated with behavioral modification, but most cases of sleep apnea require a doctor’s assistance to find the most effective treatment.