Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common disorder where you are unable to get enough air into your lungs. During apneas your breathing stops (apnea) or gets shallow (hypopnea) and normal breaths resume with a snort or choking sound. Each pause lasts 10 – 60 seconds and may occur 10 to 50 times or more an hour. People with sleep apnea often snore, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Besides obstructive apneas there are also central, mixed and complex apneas.
The amount of oxygen in blood usually drops during apneas and that may cause, in the longtime, heart and brain damage. Low oxygen in blood also results in frequent awakenings and interrupted sleep which causes drowsiness during the day. Because of daytime sleepiness, people with OSA are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents, heart attack and strokes.
OSA usually overlaps with two other syndromes: Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome, (UARS) and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). UARS is characterized from the absence of apneas and the presence of snoring and Respiratory Effort Related Arousals (RERA) which also result in daytime Sleepiness. RLS is characterized from the presence of Periodic Leg Movements (PLM).
The diagnosis of OSA is made with a sleep study (Polysomnography) where the apnea/hypopnea index is measured, that is the average number of apneas and hypopneas per hour.
The treatment of OSA is with the use of non-invasive ventilation and a CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) device. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and mandibular repositioning devices should also be considered in some patients.