When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and air flow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
Why is it important?
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. OSA has been associated with cardiovascular problems and excessive daytime sleepiness. The condition known as upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) lies midway between benign snoring and true obstructive sleep apnea. People with UARS suffer many of the symptoms of OSA but normal sleep testing will be negative.
What is the treatment?
Treatment for sleep apnea ranges depending on the severity. A combination of different treatment options is sometimes necessary to get the best result:
- Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise combined with a healthy diet can help.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or a similar machine that uses positive airway pressure to help you breathe.
- Oral breathing devices or other devices (such as nasal dilators) that you wear at night.
- Medicine to help you stay awake during the day and surgery in some cases.