What is OSA?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses, narrowing the throat passageway during sleep either partially or completely blocking the airways. This can happen because muscles in the throat relax while you sleep, and gravity then causes the tongue to fall back and block the airways. Airway blockage can cause breathing problems and may stop breathing for several seconds many times during the night. Symptoms can include loud snoring, choking, gasping for breath, non-restful sleep, fatigue and feeling sleep deprived throughout the day. OSA can occur in both men and women of all ages; but it is most common in overweight, middle-aged men. There is a strong correlation between weight and OSA. When you gain weight, your neck tends to get thicker increasing the amount of fat in the back of the throat narrowing the airway; consequently your airway is more likely to become blocked. People with OSA often have a neck size larger than 17 inches, are obese and have high blood pressure. Children with large tonsils could have OSA.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious disorder that should be treated. Specialists will review your history and symptoms and may schedule an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram. Through thorough evaluation an individualized treatment plan can be created. Treatments include behavioral changes (avoiding alcohol, sedatives, and losing weight) sleeping on the side instead of the back, using nasal sprays and allergy medicines, and quitting smoking. A mouthpiece may also be suggested to help adjust the lower jaw and tongue in order to keep the airways open. The most common treatment for people with moderate to severe OSA is continuous positive airway pressure also known as CPAP. Air is delivered through a mask worn over the nose or face and is blown into the back of the throat. This allows the airway to remain open so you are able to breathe steadily as you sleep. The amount of air pressure required is different for each person and is determined through a sleep study.