Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions.
Apnea and hypopnea
There are two types of breathing interruption characteristic of OSA:
People with OSA may experience repeated episodes of apnea and hypopnea throughout the night. These events may occur around once every one or two minutes in severe cases.
As many people with OSA experience episodes of both apnea and hypopnea, doctors sometimes refer to the condition as obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome or OSAHS.
The term ‘obstructive’ distinguishes OSA from rarer forms of sleep apnea, such as central sleep apnea, which is caused by the brain not sending signals to the breathing muscles during sleep.
The symptoms of OSA are often first spotted by a partner, friend or family member who notices problems while you sleep.
Signs of OSA in someone sleeping can include:
Some people with OSA may also experience night sweats and may wake up frequently during the night to urinate.
During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers your brain to pull you out of deep sleep – either to a lighter sleep or to wakefulness – so your airway reopens and you can breathe normally.
These repeated sleep interruptions can make you feel very tired during the day. You’ll usually have no memory of your interrupted breathing, so you may be unaware you have a problem.
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