Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night from severe congestion in the throat. Has your partner ever complained that you’re a loud snorer? If your answer to the questions is an affirmative, then there are chances that you have OSA. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) involves temporary respiratory arrest during sleep and often occurring during snoring. Some Obstructive Sleep Apnea symptoms indicate a pronounced fatigue or daytime sleepiness, which can also be attributed to other reasons as well. Lets explore them all.
WHAT IS OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea means that a person stops breathing completely or partially during his sleep. It can be a few seconds to over a minute. In connection with respiratory arrest, the oxygen saturation in the blood decreases temporarily.
Being overweight and individual differences in the anatomical conditions of the upper airways contribute to the narrowing of the airways. A complete narrowing leads to respiratory arrest and decreased blood oxygen uptake through the lungs. This happens for at least ten seconds (up to two minutes in some individuals), at least five times per hour.
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Muscles that control the tongue and soft palate can relax during sleep. This blocks airways completely and breathing is prevented. Changes in the nose or enlarged tonsils can contribute to Obstructive Sleep Apnea also.
It is estimated that every tenth person snores when sleeping. But Obstructive Sleep Apnea symptoms can also occur without snoring. If breathing pauses are long enough, blood oxygenation decreases. If they occur repeatedly during the night, this leads to a decreased quality of sleep and a pronounced fatigue during the day. Impaired concentration, depressed mood, morning headache and dryness in the throat are some effects. Irritability and decreased sexual drive or impotence may also occur as a result of disturbed sleep.
LIKELY CONTRACTORS OF OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs at all ages but is most common in the range of 3-12 years (OSA in children) and in the interval 50-70 years. Recent surveys in Sweden show that approximately half of the adult / middle-aged population has greater than 5 respiratory stops per hour during sleep. If the threshold for Obstructive Sleep Apnea diagnosis is set at greater than 15 respiratory arrests per hour, approximately 10% of women and 20% of men meet the criteria for OSA.
The condition is stated to be twice as common in men as in women. But after menopause, the incidence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in women increases. In line with the increase in weight in the population, the incidence of OSA increases and several studies indicate that low socioeconomic status is associated with increased OSA.
At least four percent of men and two percent of women suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 65, but the disease can affect people of all ages, including children. According to estimates, approximately 150,000 people suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Finland. Of these, approximately 40,000 need active treatment.
LIKELY OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA SYMPTOMS
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, like any other disease or ailment, has a whole range of symptoms, ranging from the very clear to barely noticeable. At the same time, there are some symptoms that present a very fair indication that you well be facing the prospects of having contracted Obstructive sleep apnea.
One of the first things that you should look at is obesity. A structurally crowded throat exposes to snoring and respiratory arrest. Obesity is the biggest risk factor for sleep apnea, as the multiplies the incidence of the disease. About two thirds of those suffering from sleep apnea are overweight. In the case of obesity, excess fat is collected in the neck and throat area, which makes the airways narrow. Other known risk factors are clogged nose for a long time, large tonsils and a small or with lower lower jaw.
SOME OF THE COMMON SYMPTOMS THAT YOU SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF:
- Loud snoring with interruptions and breathing breaks during sleep
- Continuous fatigue during the day which can lead to sleep
- Headache in the morning
- Stiff neck
- Inability to concentrate at work or in school.
- Concentration difficulties and forgetfulness
- Affective disorders, even Depression
- Increased urination need during the night
- Night sweats
- Decreased sexual drive
EFFECTS ON OTHER BODILY FUNCTIONS
In people with angina, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can trigger attacks even at night, especially during dream sleep, when breathing breaks are longer and oxygenation is lower.
People with coronary artery disease and also have some clear Obstructive Sleep Apnea symptoms are at a three-fold increased risk of stroke. The explanation seems to be that the sleep apnea causes large variations in blood pressure, which means that even the blood flow to the brain varies greatly. Nearly 60 percent of stroke patients have sleep apnea.
In addition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and hypertension are also considered to be closely related. A hypertension patient is likely to contract the disease, and similarly, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to hypertension in the individual.
There are several lifestyle factors that aggravate the situation of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This means that there is much you can do to feel better. Lifestyle measures are the very basis of treatment, even if you also receive other treatments:
- Weight loss: The strong link to obesity and the results of the research that exists today strongly suggest that this is the most important and probably the most effective measure. But, it takes time to lose weight in a sustainable, long-term way and it is not yet clear whether weight loss can cure everyone once they have had their symptoms. Therefore, weight reduction should be combined with other measures.
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- Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking gives very great health benefits, even without OSA. Take advantage of the available tools.
- Sleep habits: Make sure you get as good sleep as possible. Give yourself time to sleep properly!
- Avoid back position if you can: There are various tips on how to train not to sleep on your back. One example is to sleep with a soft backpack that is well clamped on the back with a pillow in which makes it impossible to turn on the back.
- Widen your nose: Simple aids are available at the pharmacy.
- Alcohol: Be careful with alcohol and sleep agents.
THE CLINICAL TREATMENT
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): During treatment with CPAP, the patient sleeps with a nasal mask that is connected via a hose to a small electric compressor. It provides an air flow that means that the patient is constantly breathing against a certain overpressure. In this way, the air pressure inside the airways becomes higher than the air pressure in the room, which prevents the airways from collapsing. When CPAP treatment works well, many patients experience a markedly improved sleep quality and feel more energetic during the day.
Operation: Removing enlarged tonsils and polyps can be helpful. It is most effective for children with sleep apnea. Surgery to widen the airways in various ways can be of value also for adults, especially in the case of misalignments or malformations in the jaws or throat, but it is rarely a first-hand alternative.