What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?


OSA is a dangerous medical disorder in which your air passages temporarily collapse during sleep and you cannot breathe.

When you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, that interruption is called an “apnea.”  Apneas can occur dozens of times per hour and hundreds of times per night.

Repeated apneas reduce the oxygen saturation in your blood stream, so that your body’s tissues and organs do not get the oxygen supply they need during sleep.

When the airway is blocked, carbon dioxide gets trapped in the lungs and CO2 levels increase in the blood.  This leads to dilation of the blood vessels in the head, which can cause throbbing headaches – a common symptom of moderate or severe OSA.

Repeated apneas also cause the blood pressure to rise, as the heart works harder to try to supply the body’s needs, resulting in stress to your circulatory system.  With sleep apnea, instead of feeling rested and revitalized after sleep, your body feels like it has run a marathon.

OSA causes harmful short-term and long-term effects to your mental and physical health, and can impact your mood, your memory, your alertness, your performance at work or school, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Untreated OSA can cause troubling symptoms, such as migraine-like headaches and heartburn or acid reflux.  More importantly, untreated OSA can cause or worsen other chronic diseases, like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, stroke, erectile dysfunction, obesity, and dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Left untreated, OSA significantly increases the risk of having serious or fatal auto accidents, as the result of daytime sleepiness.  Untreated OSA has also been shown to significantly increase your risk of early death.