Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition characterized by periods of reduced or arrested breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the repeated episodes of upper respiratory tract blockage during sleep. During these episodes, breathing reduces or stops and then resumes with a snort, gasp or jerk. Sleep apnoea can make you wake up feeling tired or unrefreshed. The flow of blood to vital organs may reduce and irregular heart rhythms can also occur. 

Causes of Obstructive Sleep ApneaObstructive sleep apnea is more common in obese men and in individuals with thick necks and small, reduced or obstructed airway passages due to swollen tonsils, a large tongue, a deviated nasal septum, increased soft tissue of the palate or certain medical condition. Aging, smoking and high blood pressure are the other associated risk factors.

Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep ApneaTo diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor will review your medical history, sleep habits and symptoms along with you and other members of the family. A physical examination is performed and a sleep study such as a polysomnogram is conducted which measures breathing patterns, air flow, blood oxygen levels, electrical activity of the brain, heart rate, muscle activity and eye movements. Polysomnogram can be performed either at a sleep lab or at home. 

Treatment of Obstructive Sleep ApneaTreatment depends on the cause of airway obstruction. The aim of treatment is to restore normal breathing during sleep and prevent daytime fatigue. Mild cases of obstructive sleep apnoea may be treated by conservative measures and includes weight loss, adjusting sleep posture, avoiding alcohol or sleeping pills which can increase the incidence of sleep apnoea, using nasal sprays that can help with sinus problems. Moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnoea may be treated by:

  • Mechanical therapy which involves wearing a face mask connected to a device such as a CPAP or Bi-PAP that improves airway pressure. 
  • Oral appliances may be designed to help maintain an open and unobstructed airway. A mandibular advancement splint is an oral device used for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea. The device is worn inside the mouth during sleep.
  • Surgery may be recommended to remove excess tissue or correct anatomical abnormalities.