If you wake up feeling irritable and like you haven’t had enough rest, and if your spouse complains about your snoring, you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

OSA is a sleep disorder affecting over 12 million Americans, and it can affect your entire body and mental state if it goes untreated. Untreated OSA causes heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, car accidents, depression and work-related accidents.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) makes sure that the products used to treat OSA are effective. One of the most common devices used to treat OSA is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP), and there is also a new product called the Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) System.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Apnea is the Greek word meaning “without breath.”  A person with sleep apnea experiences episodes where breathing is interrupted several times while asleep. The interruptions can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and can happen up to 100 times per hour. (It’s normal to have this happen less than five times per hour.). Sometimes when the breathing resumes, there’s a choking sound or loud snort.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, and it occurs because of a blockage of the airway (for instance, when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses). Central sleep apnea is a less common form of sleep apnea that occurs when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn’t properly send signals to your breathing muscles.

Dr. Eric Mann, deputy director of the Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices for the FDA, states that most people don’t know they have sleep apnea because it takes place while they are asleep. The frequent interruptions in breathing that cause you to wake up keep you feeling tired and irritable the next day.

Sleep Apnea in Men more than Women. Risk factors for Sleep Apnea include:

  • smoking
  • being over age 40,
  • being overweight (The extra fat around the neck can obstruct the airway.)
  • a family history of sleep apnea, and
  • a nasal obstruction caused by allergies, sinus problems or a deviated septum

Some children can have sleep apnea between age 3 to 6 if they have enlarged adenoids and tonsils obstructing the upper airway.

Dr. Mann recommends consulting your health care provider as soon as possible if you suspect you (or your child) have sleep apnea. However, to get a confirmation of such diagnosis, there will have to be a sleep study.

A polysomnogram (PSG) is a sleep study used to determine a diagnosis of sleep apnea. It is often done in a lab or center to monitor eye movement, brain activity, blood pressure and how much air moves in and out the lungs.

Getting Treatment

Sometimes a change in our behavior can improve sleep apnea. For starters, we can try managing our weight and reducing the use of medicines and beverages (like alcohol) that makes us drowsy and also make it harder to breathe.

As stated earlier, the CPAP machine is the most commonly used treatment for OSA because it uses mild air pressure to prevent the airway from being blocked. Some devices only cover your nose and some cover both your mouth and nose.

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