Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome
POSTED 18 Jul 2015

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common type of sleeping disorder and it is potentially dangerous as it reduces the supply of oxygen to the vital organs as well as trigger irregular heartbeat.

The word “apnoea” literally translates to “cessation of breath, so a person with this condition experiences repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage of the upper airway when he sleeps. In other words, he stops and starts breathing several times each hour that he sleeps. The chest and diaphragm muscles put in extra effort to open the closed or obstructed airway to pull in air into the lungs. When breathing resumes, the person’s body jerks or emits a loud snort or gasp.

Apnoea and Hypopnoea Episodes

Apnoea and hypopnoea are the two classifications of breathing cessation pertaining to OSA. During an episode of apnoea the collapsed muscles and soft tissues of the throat block the airway for a minimum of 10 seconds. In the case of hypopnoea, airflow is at least 50% reduced for more than 10 seconds due to partial airway blockage.

What happens in Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea either experience apnoea or hypopnoea during sleep. The lack of oxygen prompts the brain to wake the patient from a deep sleep so his airway reopens. Breathing resumes, accompanied by a either a loud snort, gasp or body jerk.

The difference between mild OSA and severe OSA is indicated by the number of sleep interruptions per hour that a patient experiences. A 5 to 15 sleep interruptions per hour is an indication of mild OSA while more than 30 sleep interruptions per hour is associated with severe OSA.

Some of the more prominent symptoms of OSA are:

• regular morning headaches
• poor concentration
• loud snoring
• dry mouth or sore throat, chest pain upon waking up
• insomnia or extreme daytime sleepiness
• irritability and mood changes
• high blood pressure
• frequent urination at night
• impotence or reduced sex drive

Who Develops OSA?

Studies indicate that OSA is more common in men and is more likely to develop if he is related to someone who has a sleeping disorder. Based on a study done by Better Health, five percent of Australians have obstructive sleep apnoea and that about one out of four males over the age of 30 have OSA.

Studies done by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the United States indicated that more than 12 million affected by OSA are overweight. Corollary to the studies, 1:50 middle-aged women and 1:25 middle-aged men have OSA.

Statistics showed that 2% middle-aged women and 4% middle-aged men in the United Kingdom are affected by OSA.

Factors such as drinking alcohol, being overweight, taking sedatives and smoking are related to the development of obstructive sleep apnoea. Large-necked people and those with small airways in their mouth, nose and throat are more susceptible in developing OSA.

Studies also indicated that Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop OSA than African-Americans and Hispanics.

Available Treatment

Lifestyle changes such as cutting down on smoking and alcohol consumption is an option. Sleeping on one’s side should be considered.

Some doctors prescribed the wearing of a mandibular advancement device or MAD to hold the jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.

In some cases, surgery to the palate and base of the tongue by an otolaryngologist is necessary.

A simple yet effective option is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to prevent the airway from closing during sleep as it provides a continuous supply of compressed air.

It should be noted that doctor consultation and tests are required to properly diagnose obstructive sleeping apnoea.

Visit us at our CPAP clinics in Perth for proper evaluation and diagnosis or call 1300 744 441.

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