Introduction to Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults
According the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 22 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. Of these 22 million adults, 80% of these cases are obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is becoming more well-known in the healthcare industry as a life damaging and life shortening disease. It’s important that you can recognize, treat, and analyze the risks of obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Scientifically speaker, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a result of the blockage of the airway from your mouth to your lungs. This is usually the result of when the tongue collapses against the soft palate of the roof of your mouth and throat which causes your airway to close when your sleep. This puts significant strain on your lungs and chest muscles as they have to have to repeatedly open a closed pathway for air. Obstructive sleep apnea usually results in a sudden body jerk, snort, or gasp for air as the patient wakes up from sleep
In layman’s terms, obstructive sleep apnea is when patients stop breathing for 10 or seconds while they are asleep while waking up hundreds of times per night. Patients with serious obstructive sleep apnea sleep through these stages which reduces the flow of oxygen through the body and can causes irregular heart beats.
Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Laboratory Sleep Test.Laboratory sleep tests will help a patient monitor oxygen levels, respiration rate, and apnea-hypopnea index.
- Home Sleep Test. Limited channel testing (LCT) is considered the home sleep test for patients who think they have obstructive sleep apnea. These tests monitor heart rate, blood oxygen level, and breathing patterns.
It is best to be evaluated by a clinician or doctor to figure out which test is right for you.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Constantly waking up during the night
- Gasping for air while sleeping
- Loud snoring
- Unusual sleeping positions with hyper extension of neck
- Morning headache
- Dry mouth when waking up
- Constant sleepiness during the day (insomnia)
- Irritated, sleepiness, and difficulty paying attention
Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults
Your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea is increased from:
- Overweight. Being overweight is the #1 cause of sleep apnea. Over half of the patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep are overweight. Overweight is defined by having a body mass index (BMI) of over 25. Fat deposits around the airway from the throat to the lungs cause a blockage of air.
- Male. Men are significantly more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than women. Studies show that men develop obstructive sleep apnea 3 times more often then women. However, women that are overweight and post menopause have an increased chance of sleep apnea.
- Age. There is a correlation of age with patients of obstructive sleep apnea. The older you are the more likely you are to develop obstructive sleep apnea. It’s estimated that 10% of the population over 65 years of age have some form of sleep apnea.
- Smoking. From cigars to cigarettes, smokers are more than 3 times as likely to develop some for of obstructive sleep apnea than people who have never smoked. Smoking increases inflammation of the airway between your mouth and lungs which causes the airway to shut.
- Family history. You are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea if your family has a history of the sleep disorder.
- Nasal congestion. If you’re having difficulty breathing, there is a higher chance of anatomical problems.
- Alcohol or sedatives. Alcohol and sedatives should not be used with people exhibit any symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. This causes muscles to inflame and relax, which can significantly worsen the existing symptoms.
- Other anatomical problems. Having a thicker neck results in a smaller airway. Enlarged tonsils, tongue, or large overbites result can constrict the air path.
Risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea can have some serious side affects. These complications can include:
- Hypertension. It’s estimated that approximately 50% of the people with sleep apnea have hypertension. This is the result of high blood pressure from obstructive sleep apnea as there is additional strain to the cardiovascular system as your body tries to receive oxygen. Hypertension can result in heart disease, stroke, or death. Most people with hypertension have no signs or symptoms, so it’s important that you get a routine doctor appointment to check your blood pressure.
- Severe daytime fatigue. Night time awakenings caused from obstructive sleep apnea will cause daytime fatigue, irritable moods, and drowsiness. Lack of sleep has been correlated with depression and other detrimental psychological factors.
- Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is common in patients that have obstructive sleep apnea since the adults tend to be overweight. Roughly 1 in 6 people who have obstructive sleep apnea have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes significantly increase the chance of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
- Surgery complications. Any surgery involving anesthesia could complicate the process. Since patients have difficultly breathing from obstructive sleep apnea, they could go through prolonged periods of receiving no oxygen. This is a serious issue for patients who are sedated and plated on their backs during surgery.
- Tired Partners. Due to excessive snoring and/or constantly waking up throughout the night, obstructive sleep apnea will tire their spouses out.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults
- CPAP Machine. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines apply positive air pressure to patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Since many patients have difficulty breathing on their own due to block airways, CPAP machines force air to the patients lungs via a constant pressure. The patient wears a mask and the CPAP machine delivers air to the mask through a hose. This is one of the most common ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
- Weight loss. Typically, overweight patients with obstructive sleep apnea can find a preventive solution via losing excess weight. Obesity causes soft tissue in the mouth and throat to swell which blocks the airways when a person is trying to sleep at night. Losing a small percentage of your body weight can significantly improve a patients obstructive sleep apnea.
- Side Sleeping. Patients with mild forms of obstructive sleep apnea can find a solution by sleeping on their side. When a person sleeps on their back, gravity pushing the tongue and tonsils downward which tends to constrict airways. Side sleeping constricts the airway less, resulting in a better flow of oxygen.
- Oral devices. There are several different types of oral and dental devices that prevent the tongue from blocking the throat. These are often called mandibular advancement devices. Consult a dentist to figure out which device would be right for you.
- Surgery. There are several surgical options for obstructive sleep apnea to remove or reposition excess throat tissue in the palate or uvula. Some other alternatives are tonsil removal or muscle removal of the of the palate. Consult a doctor to see if surgery is a good option for your obstructive sleep apnea. Some common types of surgery include: tissue removal, tissue shrinkage, jaw repositioning, implants, nerve stimulators, etc.
- Quit Smoking. Smoking causes the throat tissue to become inflamed. If you quit smoking, this could drastically improve your obstructive sleep apnea as your airways will be less constricted.
- Regular Exercise. Regular exercise not only helps you lose weight, but it also causes your heart to require less oxygen. This will cause your body to require less breaths during the night. It is recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Conclusion for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States and can pose a serious threat to an individuals health. It occurs primarily in older individuals who are overweight and can lead to other health problems such as excess tiredness and type 2 diabetes. We hope you enjoyed our post and learned something about the causes of obstructive sleep apnea in adults.