What is obstructive sleep apnoea?
OSAS (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome) is a serious breathing disorder. It causes breathing to stop repeatedly during sleep. But also during the day, the obstruction (narrowing) is in the upper airways and thus hinders proper breathing.
There are different types of sleep apnoea, but the most common is OSAS. This type of apnoea occurs when the muscles in the jaw area temporarily relax, collapsing the airway and partially blocking it completely. A noticeable sign of OSAS is snoring.
How is OSAS treated?
There are a few forms of treatment for OSAS. The gold standard involves the use of a CPAP breathing machine, which uses positive pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep. You continue to breathe on your own, but you feel much more resistance when you exhale. Another option is a dental splint, which allows you to push your lower jaw forward while you sleep. To cure OSAS, it is necessary to eliminate the cause. Usually, the cause is a recession of one jaw or even both jaws. Sleep apnoea surgery can remove the cause, thereby widening the upper airway and eliminating both sleep apnoea and snoring.
What are signs and symptoms of OSAS?
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Respiratory arrests during sleep
- Abrupt awakening accompanied by wheezing or choking sensations
- Dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Mood swings such as depression or irritability
- Sleep apnoea High blood pressure
- Night sweats
- Decreased libido
When should a doctor be consulted for OSAS?
Contact a doctor if you notice the following about yourself or if your partner observes the following:
- Snore loudly enough to disturb your sleep or that of others
- Waking up gasping for air or gagging
- Intermittent pauses in breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, which can cause you to fall asleep while working, watching TV or even driving
Most people don't really see snoring as a sign of a serious illness. Not everyone who snores automatically suffers from OSAS. However, if snoring is very loud, a polysomnography should be done to rule out OSAS.
So be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice loud snoring, especially snoring that is interrupted by pauses in breathing. With OSAS, the snoring is usually loudest when you sleep on your back, and it gets less when you turn to your side.
Excessive daytime sleepiness may be due to other conditions such as narcolepsy.
What are risk factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnoea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk, including:
- Overweight: Most, but not all, people with OSAS are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airways can obstruct breathing. However, not everyone with obstructive sleep apnoea is overweight and vice versa. Thin people can also develop the disorder.
- Narrowed airways: The main cause of OSAS is narrowing in the upper airways. The term obstruction describes this very well. In the vast majority of cases, the cause of narrowing is the retraction of the upper and/or lower jaw. Enlarged tonsils can also block the airways and cause narrowing.