What is obstructive sleep apnea?

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Swedish Otolaryngology

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All patients with repeated pattern of disruptive snoring and or other signs of sleep disordered breathing should be screened for sleep apnea.

Screening may be performed at home using ambulatory testing techniques. Detailed testing and evaluation requires testing in a sleep laboratory. During testing in a sleep laboratory the lab monitors a number of parameters including:

  • blood oxygen levels
  • respiration (chest motions, airflow, oxygenation levels)
  • cardiovascular parameters (EKG and blood pressure)
  • snoring
  • limb movements
  • brain activity

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA) is characterized by repetitive and prolonged interruptions of breathing during sleep. Snoring is nearly a universally observed feature but opposed to simple snorers, patients with OSA suffer from a more severe collapse leading to breathing pauses and disruptions.

Repeated blockages in airflow and decrease in oxygen levels cause inability to maintain restful sleep. Struggle to maintain breathing during sleep leads to repeated arousals from deeper levels of sleep to open up the breathing passages. This leads to fragmented sleep leading to poor sleep quality and numerous negative physiologic effects.

Symptoms and complications of untreated sleep apnea are numerous and can include:

Neurocognitive Complications

  • ​Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents from falling asleep while driving
  • Headaches
  • Feeling of dullness or
  • Marital or relationship difficulty

Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Metabolic Complications

  • Hypertension
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Impaired glucose metabolism