What is obstructive Sleep Apnea?

April 28, 2017 |  by  |  Types of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be a potentially serious sleeping disorder that if not treated properly can lead to some very serious medical complications including death. While death is rare from obstructive sleep apnea in some rare cases this can happen. To understand what the potential issues of obstructive sleep apnea it is critical to understand what this sleeping disorder is all about.

During obstructive sleep apnea breathing will repeatedly stop and start during sleep. This can happen numerous times during the night and in the most severe cases this can happen upwards of a 100 times in a night. There are several types of sleep apnea that exist however obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. Anyone can develop sleep apnea although it does appear to be seen more often in people who are over the age of 65 or those who are obese.


Signs and Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea

While everyone is different the following list are the most common signs and symptoms that one have sleep apnea. If you have any of these symptoms it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider as soon as possible.

  • Extreme daytime tiredness
  • Loud snoring that often has periods of one gasping for air. Although many people with sleep apnea may not remember waking up gasping for air, the bed partner may be more aware of this if it happening.
  • Having a dry mouth or sore throat when you awake
  • Sleep apnea obstructive disorder will often leave people waking up with a morning headache.
  • High blood pressure that is often very hard to control and manage
  • Feeling that no matter how much sleep you get one never feels rested

When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea the above are signs and symptoms that one should be concerned with. It is also important to note that not everyone with sleep apnea will snore. On the other hand, many people will not think that snoring is a serious issue and due to this reason sleep apnea often gets over looked. If you or your loved one does in fact snore and suffer from extreme fatigue it may be time to seek medical advice.

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are many different causes of sleep apnea obstructive disorder. As a whole this disorder is caused when the muscles in the back of one’s throat relax to the point of closing. These muscles are too relaxed and thus cause issues with breathing and not allowing enough air to come through. As you’re the muscles associated with breathing begin to relax the airway will also narrow. This is the medical reason why obstructive sleep apnea occurs.

Certain people will have a higher level of risk for developing sleep apnea. Below is a list of some of the most common risk factors and causes of obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Being overweight or obese– When one is overweight they can often develop fat deposit around the neck and upper airway. More than half of the people who have sleep apnea are also overweight.
  • Having a large neck- People with large necks are genetically predispostioned to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Smaller/Narrow airways
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure
  • Being Male
  • Having a history of smoking
  • Women who are post-menopausal
  • Certain ethnicities such as African American, Hispanic or Pacfic Islander
  • Anyone over the age of 65


Sleep apnea in itself is considered to be a serious medical condition. However there are many complications that can arise that will make obstructive sleep apnea even more serious of a medical concern. One of the biggest complications of this sleep apnea obstructive disorder is a number of different heart related issues. Not being able to breathe at a regular pace can cause a lot of stress on the heart. Other than putting pressure on the heart people with sleep apnea are at risk for stroke and higher blood pressures. Other cardiac issues can include cardiac arrhythmias which if not controlled properly can lead to sudden death.
Daytime fatigue is also another complication of obstructive sleep apnea. There are numerous complications that can arise from one being too tired. Sleep is needed in order to function and severe sleep deprivation can result in mood changes, irritability, confusion and other mental issues with all of these combined can less the quality of one’s life.

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea

The good news is that most people will respond quite well to nonsurgical treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP therapy is most often used and with a little time people will adjust to dealing with sleeping a mask on their face.

Treatment is needed for sleep apnea. If left untreated sleep apnea can result in some very serious medical condition and in some cases can result in death.

Leave a Reply