Overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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I recently came across this article from the Mayo Clinic with a great overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the effects it can have if left untreated:

People who have sleep apnea repeatedly stop and start breathing when they sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea. The more common form is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It happens when muscles in the back of the throat relax, narrowing the airway and making it hard to take in enough air. Central sleep apnea is less common. It happens when the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

OSA can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. People with this sleep disorder often do not feel refreshed in the morning. They may wake up with a headache and suffer from fatigue and sleepiness throughout the day. Lack of sleep can affect a person’s mood and the ability to think clearly and concentrate.

Other problems can arise as a result of OSA, too. It may lead to an increase in blood pressure. It can raise your risk for stroke and many types of heart disease. Untreated OSA makes recovery from surgery more difficult. If you have OSA, your risk of being in a motor vehicle accident is higher. Severe cases of OSA may lead to premature death.

To lower the likelihood of having these problems, it’s important to have OSA treated. Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most effective treatment. It works by using air pressure to hold the throat open. To use it, you need to wear a mask over your nose while you sleep.

— Eric Olson, M.D., Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester.