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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA or sleep apnoea) is a common condition that can be life threatening.  Sleep apnea is often confused with snoring.

Both are caused when tissue at the back of the throat collpases and blocks the air passage.  This reduces oxygen levels to all your organs including the heart and brain.  If this obstruction continues for an extended period of time a person could potentially die during their sleep.

More often than not, when the oxygen levels fall below a certain point, the body wakes up momentarily, the breathing passage opens up, snoring stops and your body has oxygen again.

This can happen hundreds of times during the night.  Many people don’t even wake up fully as the body resets itself.  However, if a person is waking up or almost waking up throughout the night, the body is not able to get the deep rest it needs during sleep.  This often leads to a feeling of being totally drained during the day.

The lack of deep rest during sleep can also lead to a number of serious health conditions including excessive sleepiness during the day, headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive, high risk of stroke, hypertension and congestive heart failure.  Sleep apnea patients are also at a high risk of falling sleep during driving, causing an accident and are also likely to have more accidents at work.

Risk Factors Of Sleep Apnea

Following are some common risk factors that can cause sleep apnea:

* Being overweight or obese
* People with large necks often have sleep apnea
* Taking sedatives or other medication that has a sedating effect.
* Some people have an unusually narrow airway, large tonsils, adenoids, tongue or a small lower jaw.
* Smoking and other tobacco products
* Drinking alcohol, especially before going to bed
* Being male
* Over age 40, male or female
* Menopause
* Family history of OSA / sleep apnea
* nasal congestion or nasal polyps

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you have any of the following symptoms it would be good to set up an appointment with one of our sleep apnea specialists soon:

* Unintentionally falling asleep during the day
* General feeling of sleepiness during the day
* Unfulfilling, unrefreshed consistently over several weeks
* General fatigue during the day
* If you wake up in the middle of the night with choking sounds or gasping for breath
* Very loud snoring

To Properly diagnose sleep apnea a Polysomnogram test may be required to chart your brain waves, heart beat, leg and arm movements during sleep.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep apnea is a treatable condition and there are a number of ways to reduce the symptoms.

1. Exercise to reduce weight, particularly aim to reduce fat in the neck area.

2. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.

3. Sleep on your side instead of on your back.

4. Use a CPAP (continuous positive airway presure) device to prevent the airway from closing during sleep.

5. Wear a MAD (mandibular advancement device) around your teeth to hold your jaw and tongue slightly forward during sleep.  This widens the air passage in the back of your throat.

6. Surgery is also an option if sleep apnea is caused by an unusual inner neck structure.  This is usually a last resort for most people.

If sleep apnea is not treated it can have a significant impact on the quality of life and can cause problems like poor performance at work or school or problems with relationships due to continuous tension and irritability.

If you think you may have snoring problems or sleep apnea, give us a call so we can do a proper diagnosis and treatment for you.