With Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), tissues in the back of your throat, your tonsils, or you tongue can relax and block or restrict airflow as you sleep.
What is it? Apnea, which means “want of breath” in Greek, is a complete stoppage in breathing during sleep. Apnea happens when tissues at the back of your airway (such as your tongue, tonsils or throat) relax so much that they block the flow of air. When you stop breathing, your brain sends a “wake up” message to your body which causes you to inhale more strongly in order to get a breath. While you may not consciously wake up from this, your body is unable to achieve a level of deep, restful sleep. An episode of apnea can last more than 10 seconds. Those with severe cases of apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times during one night’s sleep.
Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million adults in the United States alone. It becomes more common as people reach middle age and beyond. Symptoms for sleep apnea include snoring, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure and a high Body Mass Index.
Treatment: Sleep Apnea can be treated using several methods, including the use of lifestyle changes (to reduce symptoms), oral or dental appliances, surgery, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. With positive airway pressure (PAP), air constantly flows through your nose, moves into your throat and the slight air pressure keeps your airway open. A CPAP system typically has three main parts: a flow generator, which filters room air and produces positive air pressure; a mask or nasal piece which delivers the filtered, pressured air to your airway; and an airflow hose which connects to the other pieces.
Before you begin CPAP therapy, a certified sleep technician can test various air pressure settings in the American Fork Hospital Sleep Center in order to find the best setting for you. The technician will find a pressure setting that is just enough to keep your airway open but not so strong that it is uncomfortable. Once a physician has prescribed CPAP, you will meet with a home medical equipment provider and receive your own machine and mask.
Sleep Apnea Links:
Sleep Apnea overview from Healthwise Patient Education Library