What is Sleep Apnea?
OSAS, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, is a condition that occurs when people sleep. OSAS is characterized by excessive snoring, lack of breath, the inability to breathe, sleep paralysis, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Simply put, the back of the throat collapses from relaxation during sleep, and the person cannot breathe, resulting in de-oxygenation of the blood, and severe interruptions in the sleep cycle (note the closed airway in the illustration).
Long-term side effects of sleep apnea include a very heightened risk of heart attack and seizure from the long-term lack of oxygen. The short-term effects are sleepiness, dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, headaches, forgetfulness, depression, sweating profusely at night, restlessness of the legs and grinding jaws, snoring, sexual dysfunction, extreme difficulty awakening in the morning, gasping or choking in the night upon awakening, and pauses or absence of breathing while asleep.
Causes of Sleep Apnea:
Some causes are not genetic within sleep apnea, which is sometimes attributed to obesity. However, scientists have discovered a lot of apnic patients do have genetics that correlate with sleep apnea. The genetic factors that contribute to sleep apnea are craniofacial structure, body fat distribution, and neural control of the upper airway muscles. OSAS was identified first just 40 years ago, and is becoming increasingly more prevalent with it’s discovery. Only 2-4% of middle-aged men and 1-2% of middle-aged women have this disease, however the majority of affected individuals remain undiagnosed.
There are several treatment methods, however, that are effective. There are the “simple” solutions, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol at night, sleeping on your stomach or side, using nasal sprays, but if the patient does not just have “mild” sleep apnea, a CPAP machine is required. The concept of the CPAP machine is simple, it is a machine that is connected to a hose, which leads to a mask in which the user wears on the face with straps, and the machine blows air into the tube in order to keep the airway open. Patients that have used the CPAP machine have shown drastic improvements. It also reduces blood pressure from the ease of oxygenation of the blood.