About OSA

Adequate sleep is one the most important aspects for a healthy life. Several medical conditions may affect sleep. Sleep breathing disorders are one of them and may occur at any age. Usually, if observed in kids can be the result of obstruction of the airway due to enlarged adenoids and/or malocclusion (‘bad bite’). Adequate treatment at early age can correct the problem and avoid serious problems that can occur later in life.

The most common breathing disorder in adults is OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea). In this case breathing is interrupted during sleep due to obstruction of the airway. This can develop because either the muscles relax too much during sleep compromising the airway, or the airway is blocked by the tongue and soft palate collapse. The severity of OSA is measured by how many times the person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. In severe cases a person can stop breathing up 60 or more times per hour.

These disruptions impair your ability to reach the desired deep, restful phases of sleep, and you will probably feel sleepy during your waking hours.

As a result of interrupted breathing there can be a drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. This can create other problems, such as cardiovascular diseases.

Signs and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • Experiencing mood changes, such as depression or irritability
  • High blood pressure

Risk factors

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk:

  • Excess weight: Around half the people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing.

  • Narrowed airway: You may inherit naturally narrow airways. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension): Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension.

  • Chronic nasal congestion: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.

  • Smoking: People who smoke are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Diabetes: Obstructive sleep apnea may be more common in people with diabetes.

  • Gender: In general, men are twice as likely as women to have obstructive sleep apnea.

  • A family history of sleep apnea: If you have family members with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.

  • Asthma: Recent research has found an association between asthma and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.


Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are available. One treatment involves using a machine that keeps your airway open while you sleep – CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Another option is a mouthpiece, done by a qualified dentist, to position your jaw forward during sleep and keep the airway open. In some cases, surgery may be an option as well. Before the proper treatment can be prescribed is necessary to have the diagnosis done by a sleep physician, which may involve overnight monitoring of sleep. Once this is done and the severity and possible cause of obstruction is established, the patient may have the option to choose for CPAP, an oral appliance or surgery. It is important to note that management of some risk factors can also help to establish proper breathing during sleep.

Screening for OSA

There are different questionnaires available for a fast screening and to check if you are at risk for OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)

If you or someone you know answers yes to three or more of these questions, it may be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

  1. Have you been told that you snore loudly?
    • Yes
    • No

  2. Has anyone ever told you that your snoring is interrupted by periods where you stop breathing?
    • Yes
    • No

  3.  Are you excessively sleepy during the day?
    • Yes
    • No

  4. Do you feel “unrefreshed” in the morning even after having adequate number of hours of sleep?
    • Yes
    • No

  5. Do you frequently suffer from headaches upon awakening?
    • Yes
    • No

  6. Do you fall asleep at inappropriate times such as while at work, driving, or watching TV?
    • Yes
    • No

  7. Do you have trouble concentrating, memory loss, or forgetfulness?
    • Yes
    • No

  8. Are you up to use the bathroom frequently (more than once) during the night?
    • Yes
    • No