what is sleep apnea

What is Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep-disordered breathing characterized by repeated cessation of breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time, despite continued respiratory effort. It is caused by an obstruction in the airway, and episodes are referred to as apneic events. Events also include hypopnea, which causes the level of oxygen in the blood to decrease by 4%. OSA is usually accompanied by snoring, followed by gasping or snorting, which wakes the individual, though he will usually return to sleep. Bed partners are usually the first to alert the sufferer to the condition, though other symptoms, such as daytime fatigue, waking unrefreshed, memory loss, short attention span, or rapid weight gain may alert the individual to the problem. The airway blockage can be cause by a number of factors, including an enlarged uvula, tongue, adenoids or tonsils; obesity resulting in excessive fat around the throat muscles; use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs which contribute to inflammation and swelling of the upper airway; severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); and even age and gender. Maintaining irregular sleep hours or snoring itself may also contribute to OSA. Left untreated, OSA has been shown to be a contributing factor in traffic accidents and lost productivity. More importantly, it can affect other health issues including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.