Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that involves a decrease or complete halt in airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe. It occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway. This leads to partial reductions (hypopneas) and complete pauses (apneas) in breathing that last at least 10 seconds during sleep. Most pauses last between 10 and 30 seconds, but some may persist for one minute or longer. This can lead to abrupt reductions in blood oxygen saturation, with oxygen levels falling as much as 40 percent or more in severe cases.


The brain responds to the lack of oxygen by alerting the body, causing a brief arousal from sleep that restores normal breathing. This pattern can occur hundreds of times in one night. The result is a fragmented quality of sleep that often produces an excessive level of daytime sleepiness.


Most people with OSA snore loudly and frequently, with periods of silence when airflow is reduced or blocked. They then make choking, snorting or gasping sounds when their airway reopens.

A common measurement of sleep apnea is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). This is an average that represents the combined number of apneas and hypopneas that occur per hour of sleep.



  • OSA can occur in any ager group, but prevalence increases between middle and older age.

  • OSA with resulting daytime sleepiness occurs in at least four percent of men and two percent of women

  • About 24 percent of men and nine percent of women have the breathing symptoms of OSA with or without daytime sleepness.

  • About 80 percent to 90 percent of adults with OSA remain undiagnosed.




Risk groups

  • People who are overweight (Body Mass Index of 25 to 29.9) and obese (Body Mass Index of 30 and above)

  • Men and women with large neck sizes: 17 inches or more for men, 16 inches or more for women

  • Middle-aged and older men, and post-menopausal women

  • People with abnormalities of the bony and soft tissue structure of the head and neck

  • Adults and children with Down Syndrome

  • Children with large tonsils and adenoids

  • Anyone who has a family member with OSA

  • People with endocrine disorders such as Acromegaly and Hypothyroidism

  • Smokers

  • Those suffering from nocturnal nasal congestion due to abnormal morphology, rhinitis or both.



  • Fluctuating oxygen levels

  • Increased heart rate

  • Chronic elevation in daytime blood pressure

  • Increased risk of stroke

  • Higher rate of death due to heart disease

  • Impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance

  • Impaired concentration

  • Mood changes

  • Increased risk of being involved in a deadly motor vehicle accident

  • Disturbed sleep of the bed partner


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