OSA is the most common sleep disorder where there is an increase in upper airway resistance causing the upper airways to collapse while the patient is asleep. Symptoms including snoring, breathing pauses, waking up at night with chocking sensation, waking up in the morning feeling unrefreshed, excessive sleepiness and fatigue during the day. During normal sleep, people fall into four stages of sleep (stages N1, N2, N3, and REM); Stages N3 and REM are the deep sleep where we believe the body restores itself from damages occurred during the day. In OSA patients, the upper airways collapse, oxygen saturation drops, the brain kicks the patient out of deep sleep forcing the patient to breath. When this happens several times a night, the patient ends up with fragmented and non-restorative sleep. This in turn results into the patient feeling unrefreshed in the AM, excessively sleepy and fatigued during the day. In addition, the long-term affect of this results into increasing the risk for hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, diabetes, and sudden death.
The diagnosis of OSA is based on in the initial screen of clinical symptoms and confirmed with an overnight attended sleep study in a certified sleep laboratory. During sleep study, several parameters are monitored including breathing, oxygenation, brain wave activity, and leg, abdominal and chest movements.
The first line of treatment of the OSA is CPAP, which is a machine that pushes air into the airway forcing it to stay open and preventing it from collapsing. If the patient is unable to tolerate CPAP, alternative options include oral appliances that are designed and fitted by a sleep disorder dentist or an ENT specialist, or surgery where there are multiple surgical procedures can help correct the problem. A preventative measures for sleep apnea include weight loss and maintaining ideal body weight, avoidance of sedatives and hypnotics that might worsen the symptoms.