OSA is a fairly common condition and is caused by the walls of the throat relaxing and contracting during sleep, which results in interruptions to normal breathing. This can lead to disturbed sleep patterns, a negative impact on quality of life due to regular sleep interruptions and may also cause the development of other conditions.
SYMPTOMS OF OSA
If you develop OSA it’s likely that people around you will notice you snore fairly loudly and struggle to breathe. It may also be quite noticeable that you stop breathing for a short space of time during the night. You may wake up quite often throughout the night and could find yourself struggling to breathe – or even choking. The shortage of oxygen experienced during episodes triggers your brain to pull you into a lighter sleep or to wake up. These continued sleep interruptions experienced with this condition are likely to make you feel extremely tired during the day, even if you’re unaware that you suffer from OSA.
Characteristic breathing interruptions caused by the condition include:
Apnea – which is where the muscles and tissues in the throat relax enough to cause a total blockage of the air passage for at least 10 seconds.
Hypoapnea – this is a partial blockage of the air passage resulting in airflow reductions of more than 50% for at least 10 seconds.
CAUSES OF OSA
It’s quite normal for the throat to collapse to a small degree when you sleep, as the soft tissues and muscles will always relax at this time. However, this does not cause breathing problems for most people.
OSA can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:
Age – people over the age of 40 are more likely to develop the condition
Sex – men develop OSA more often than women
Weight – people who are overweight have excess body fat which increases the amount of soft tissue in the neck, placing more stress on neck muscles
Sedatives – regularly taking sedatives such as sleeping tablets or tranquilisers can increase risks of developing the condition
Alcohol – regular alcohol consumption, particularly just before bedtime, can worsen the condition
Smoking – people who smoke are more likely to develop the condition.
In the main, treatment options such as lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms, however, there are treatments for OSA. These include the use of a continuous positive airways pressure device (CPAP) and oral appliances, known as mandibular advancement devices.