What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that prevents airflow during sleep. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses temporarily blocking the airway, which keeps air from getting into the lungs. When your blood-oxygen level drops low enough, the body wakes up. It happens so quickly that the sleeper may not even remember the arousal. Subconsciously waking up hundreds of times a night disrupts normal sleep patterns and can make a person feel very tired and un-refreshed the next day. The frequently associated snoring creates its own health issues and, in addition, even disrupts the normal sleep patterns of those in your household.
Sleep apnea patients are more likely to suffer from strokes, heart problems and high blood pressure, as well as a higher incidence of work and driving-related accidents. There is even some association of sleep apnea with Alzheimer's Disease. Further, the risk of sleep apnea increases with additional body weight because excess tissue in the back of the throat can narrow and block the airway even more.
The signs and symptoms of OSA include snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping or choking during the night, non-refreshed sleep, fragmented sleep, clouded memory, irritability, personality changes and morning headaches.