Why are you gasping for air?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can take place repeatedly where breathing is paused for a few seconds and then resumed. This happens when the back throat muscles fail to open up the airway.
What Could Happen With Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea brings about a fragmented sleep life, and it lowers oxygen levels in the blood. This combination is dangerous as it could lead to heart disease, hypertension and even memory problems. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of drowsy driving.
What Are The Chances That I Have Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and sexes. It is estimated that about 5% of Australians suffer from sleep apnea, with around 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 years affected. It is not easy to estimate the prevalence in children because of different monitoring techniques.
What Causes OSA
It is quite normal for the muscles and soft tissues located in your throat to relax and collapse. This will occur during sleep to some degree. So what is the issue with OSA? Well, for people with OSA, their airway is narrow, and this could be as a result of the following:
- Being overweight. Too much fat increases the bulk in tissues around the neck, and this puts a strain on the soft tissues. The same case is true with excess fat in the stomach. All of this could lead to breathing difficulties.
- Taking medication that is sedative.
- OSA is more common in men than in women. It is also dependent on the patterns formed due to fat distribution in the body.
- You have a large neck. This is especially true with men because some of them have a greater collar size. This increases their risk.
- Being over 40 years of age. OSA can occur at any age, but people over 40 are more susceptible.
- Family history of OSA.
- An unusual inner neck structure, for instance, large tonsils or a narrow airway.
- Taking alcohol before sleep worsens sleep apnea.
- Hormonal changes during menopause.
- Nasal congestion. If the septum has deviated then it could result in the airways becoming narrower.
What Are The Symptoms of OSA
The most common symptom of OSA is snoring. You should note that people suffering from sleep apnea are not aware of it and could also not know the symptoms. Some of the signs are sudden gasps or grunts, waking up and then going back to sleep. Additional symptoms are:
- Day time sleeping because of interrupted night’s sleep
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Waking up several times during the night to go pee
- Decreased libido or erectile dysfunction
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
If you suspect that you could be having OSA, then the first thing you should do is see a doctor. Keep a record of your sleep and fatigue patterns. Ask your partner or housemate if they have ever noticed anything strange with your breathing at night. If you have been taking any medication, take it plus the information you have gathered and share it with the doctor. Appropriate medical advice will be given.