Adequate sleep is one of the basic requirements to lead a healthy life. When we talk about adequate sleep it is important to understand that it should be continuous, without waking up between the hours. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition known to affect around 60 million people in the USA.
Continue reading to learn more about what obstructive sleep apnea is, its symptoms, and what impact it has on the overall well-being of an individual.
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What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. This happens because the airway becomes partially or completely blocked and hence the sufferer is unable to take in enough oxygen. The periods at which the breathing is interrupted are called hypopneas and apneas.
Hypopneas occurs when the breathing is diminished leading to insufficient oxygen intake. Apneas, on the other hand, occurs when breathing halts entirely. This pause in breathing usually occurs due to an obstruction in the upper airway, such as muscles, the tongue, or other body tissues.
How bad Sleep Apnea can be?
It all comes down to numbers when assessing how bad one’s sleep apnea is. That number is the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI), which counts how many times one’s breathing stops or gets shallow during sleep. The higher the AHI, the worse is that person’s OSA.
- Mild OSA: AHI between 5 and 15 – Includes symptoms like daytime fatigue or snoring, but it’s not as severe as the other categories.
- Moderate OSA: AHI between 15 and 30 – This is where things start to get serious. The person is most likely to feel tired all the time, and general health could be at risk.
- Severe OSA: AHI above 30 – This is the most serious form of OSA. The person experiences major sleep disruption and health problems like high blood pressure or heart issues.
What causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
There are several conditions associated with OSA:
- Obesity hyperventilation syndrome that is a breathing disorder in individuals with obesity.
- Endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism, acromegaly, and polycystic ovary syndrome, which can impact breathing during sleep.
- Chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis.
- Neuromuscular conditions, like strokes that may disrupt signals from the brain to chest muscles and the airway.
- Heart or kidney failure, leading to fluid accumulation in the neck and obstructing the upper airways.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Loud interrupted snoring
- Feelings of depression
- Troubling with memory recall
- Frequent daytime sleepiness
- Easily becoming irritated
- Experiencing morning headaches
How does Obstructive Sleep Apnea affect overall-wellbeing?
The connection between obstructive sleep apnea and daytime fatigue
One of the most significant impacts of OSA is its effect on daytime fatigue. The interrupted sleep caused by OSA can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, making it difficult to stay awake and alert during the day. This can impair cognitive function, affect mood, make an individual drowsy and decrease overall productivity.
Obstructive sleep apnea’s influence on mental health
OSA can also have a significant impact on mental health. Studies have shown that individuals with untreated OSA are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The constant disruption of sleep can lead to irritability, lack of motivation, and decreased quality of life.
Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular health
The effects of OSA are not limited to mental and emotional well-being; it can also have serious implications for cardiovascular health. The intermittent drops in oxygen levels and increased stress on the cardiovascular system can contribute to hypertension, heart disease, and an increased risk of stroke.
The role of obstructive sleep apnea in metabolic health
OSA has been linked to metabolic disturbances, including insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. These disruptions can contribute to weight gain, difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The impact of OSA on social and emotional aspects of life
The effect of OSA affects an individual social and emotional life as well. Relationships may suffer due to the irritability and mood swings caused by sleep deprivation. Social interactions and professional performance may be hindered by fatigue and decreased focus. The overall impact on emotional health can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and isolation.
How to treat obstructive sleep apnea?
While treating obstructive sleep apnea the main goal is to ensure unobstructed airflow. The different treatment options include:
- Weight Loss: It is recommended for individuals with OSA and obesity. While it may not fully cure OSA, weight loss has demonstrated a reduction in its severity. It improves blood pressure, enhances quality of life, and reduces daytime sleepiness.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): It is a primary treatment to manage OSA. It involves a nightly face mask delivering positive airflow to keep airways open.
- Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP): It is a treatment used if CPAP is ineffective. It adjusts pressure during inhalation and exhalation.
- Sleeping on Your Side (Positional Therapy): It encourages side sleeping to alleviate the OSA that is worsened by sleeping on the back.
- Surgery: Surgery is the most effective way to correct airway obstruction. It is only considered when CPAP, BPAP, or oral appliances are not successful.
Considering the above-given facts, it is clear that the impact of obstructive sleep apnea can be daunting. It requires a multi-directional approach that ranges from lifestyle changes like weight management to effective treatments like CPAP therapy. Understanding the various options, including positional therapy and surgery, when necessary, empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their obstructive sleep apnea management. Don’t settle for a life robbed of restful sleep and optimal health. Take the first step toward reclaiming your well-being.
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