Wondering why you feel tired after a full night’s sleep?
Have people told you that you snore, and do you have to take multiple nap breaks throughout the day?
You may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a common but frequently overlooked condition.
Let’s learn more about tell-tale signs of OSA; what you can do to confirm whether you have it, and how you can treat it.
What is OSA?
It happens while we sleep. In some people, their throat gets blocked off while sleeping, which decreases the oxygen level in the blood, leading to unrefreshing sleep.
It is seen in all ages and both genders; however, it is more frequently seen in males over the age of 40.
Tell-tale signs of OSA:
- Loud snoring: When accompanied by repetitive choking or gasping for air, snoring can be concerning for OSA.
- Excessive sleepiness: The inability to focus on your work, studies, and other task of the day, along with feeling tired even after a good night’s sleep, should raise concerns for OSA.
- Headaches: The headaches that occur, especially in the earlier hours of the day due to decreased oxygen supply to the brain overnight, could indicate OSA.
- Mood instability: When we cannot get adequate rest from our sleep, it begins to affect our mood, energy levels, and capacity to deal with stress. This can be seen as irritable behavior.
- Dry mouth in the morning: Some people with OSA often claim they are “mouth breathers,” especially when they go to sleep.
- Difficult to control high blood pressure: Some people will keep having high blood pressure, and their provider keeps adding more medication; this could be because they have untreated OSA.
If you have two or more of these symptoms, it is recommended that you see a doctor to get tested for OSA.
Tests to know if you have OSA:
- Polysomnography: This long word translates to a sleep study in a sleep lab, where we monitor parameters like blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, oxygen level, brain waves, and chest and lower limb movement.
- Home Sleep Study: Here, we measure fewer parameters than the test mentioned above, mainly oxygen levels. These are generally preferred over the lab study if there is strong suspicion that a person may have OSA.
The main hope of treatment is to attain refreshing sleep by ensuring the throat or airway does not get blocked as frequently and that the oxygen levels do not fall during sleep.
Here are treatment options:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):
- Oral devices: These are designed to adjust the positions of the jaw and tongue to keep the throat open while you sleep. This option is for people who cannot tolerate the CPAP machine or have a milder version of OSA.
- Healthy habits: Losing weight, refraining from alcohol, having a regular sleep time, avoiding sedating medication at bedtime, and sleeping on your side are some of the important changes one can make in their life to help one get a more refreshing sleep.
- Surgical Interventions: When all these therapies above provide no relief, sometimes surgically removing excess tissue from one’ s throat or adjusting the position of one’s jaw can be considered for some folks.
It is a mask that you wear while going to sleep at night. It throws air into your mouth at a set pressure level, to help keep your throat open while you sleep. Depending on your build and neck circumference, every individual has their own pressure settings that may need to be updated occasionally.
OSA is more common than we think. It is easily missed and can significantly alter someone’s life if caught and treated appropriately. Knowing about the signs and symptoms will not only help you, but can also be helpful for someone you know, who has these symptoms. With the right treatment, people with OSA can enjoy a refreshing sleep, improved energy levels, and prevent unwanted health risks involved with undiagnosed and unresolved sleep apnea.
If you have been diagnosed with OSA and use a breathing machine, like CPAP at night, please keep in mind the following:
- Using CPAP every night is important and will play a crucial role in better managing your breathing, blood pressure, cholesterol, and energy levels.
- Get your CPAP machine checked and follow up with a sleep doctor at least once every year.
- Your machine can record the number of times you stop breathing while you sleep, even with the machine on. If that is the case, routinely updating the pressure settings of your machine can help further help prevent these episodes.
At White River Health, we have clinics that offer testing and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Please join us in spreading the word and making people more aware of OSA through this article. Share it with someone you think can benefit from it.
Aakash Hans, MD, is accepting patients at White River Health Internal Medicine. To schedule an appointment, call 870-262-1530.