Disrupted sleeping can affect our lives in so many different ways. It can cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue or poor concentration and if it is associated with snoring, restlessness, witnessed apnea (cessation of breathing lasting more than 10 seconds), awakening gasping or morning headaches, it may actually be a medical disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA affects around 20 percent of the general population. It is more prevalent with older age, African Americans, and men. Risk factors associated with OSA include obesity, facial anatomical abnormalities, heredity, smoking, nasal congestion and diabetes.
OSA recently became a priority to medical professionals due to multiple studies showing how dangerous it can be. If you have untreated severe OSA, you have three to six fold increase risk of all-cause mortality. OSA is associated with hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure. Motor vehicle crashes are two to three times more common among patients with OSA, and finally it increases your risk of complications going through any major surgery.
OSA is easily diagnosed with a sleep study. Lots of companies now offer home sleep studies for free that serve as screening methods to see if you are eligible for the official one to be paid by your insurance.
Once you are diagnosed with OSA, you will be advised to lose weight, sleep on your side as opposed to your back, avoid alcohol, and consult your provider to review your medications. If that all fails then a CPAP machine that puts pressure in your face to keep your lungs open can be tried, or some oral appliances that address your facial anatomy. Surgery to the back of your throat could be an option too.