Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder whereby individuals stop breathing or have shallow breathing recurrently during sleep. Apneas are usually associated with snoring and produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen, typically ending with an arousal. Recurrent apneas prevent patients from entering deep stages of sleep, leading to unrefreshing sleep and daytime sleepiness.
View the Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Fact Sheet
Although sleepiness and snoring are the most common symptoms, patients may experience nighttime choking, headaches, insomnia, night sweats, thrashing, nighttime urination and sexual dysfunction. Cardiovascular presentations include uncontrolled high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms at night, and unexplained right heart dysfunction.
OSA occurs in about four percent of adult males and two percent of females. It is nearly as common as asthma, but usually unrecognized. One out three overweight male snorers have OSA. The diagnosis is made by an overnight sleep study. Treatments for mild OSA include weight loss, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, sleeping off back, and/or nasal sprays. In patients with more significant disease, the treatment of choice is positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. The device consists of a mask or tubing around or under the nose or mouth connected to a blower that is powered by an electrical outlet. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) delivers air under a constant pressure, thereby acting as an air splint to keep the airway open. Bilevel PAP therapy delivers different pressures during inhalation and exhalation to improve comfort and tolerance. Bilevel PAP is the preferred initial treatment for some patients with sleep-related breathing disorders.