Sleep plays a crucial role in our overall health and quality of life, which is why it’s critical to catch and address any conditions that disrupt our sleep. One of the most common sleep disturbances is a potentially serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the back of the throat completely collapses during sleep, causing the patient to stop breathing. The body reacts to this as it would if you were choking; heart rate and blood pressure go up, oxygen levels in the blood drop, and the brain releases adrenaline which pops you out of deep sleep so you take a deep breath. This can happen over and over again throughout the night, disrupting sleep, affecting quality of life, and causing significant health problems.
OSA can cause significant health risks if left untreated. Patients with untreated OSA have increased risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, and chronic kidney disease. All these risks combined can increase risk of mortality by 50% if left untreated.
What causes obstructive sleep apnea?
Research shows that genetics can play a significant role in OSA by determining how the backs of our throats are built and how much those muscles relax during sleep. Weight can also contribute to OSA, but is not the only factor that determines if a person is at risk of having sleep apnea. Anyone can have sleep apnea regardless of age, gender or body build.
How is obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed?
OSA is diagnosed with a sleep test. In the past most of these sleep tests required an overnight stay in the sleep lab but advances in equipment now allow us to accurately diagnose OSA with a home sleep test in most cases. This requires the patient to wear three pieces of equipment for one night at home.
How is obstructive sleep apnea treated?
The most common treatment option is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which provides air pressure to the back of the throat through a mask worn over the patient’s nose or nose and mouth. For mild sleep apnea an oral mandibular advancement device, which is a custom made mouthpiece that slightly advances the bottom jaw, can also be an effective treatment.
What can patients expect at Holland Hospital Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine?
A new diagnosis of OSA can be overwhelming but at Holland Hospital Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine we take the time to educate our patients, choose the best treatment option, and follow closely as you get started with treatment. We strive to be available as a resource for our patients and guide them through the process as easily as possible.
Where can I learn more?
Is your quality of sleep disrupting your life? Learn more about Holland Hospital Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine and see what sets our practice apart.