Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where, while sleeping, an individual’s airway collapses and does not allow airflow to the lungs. This causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep for a minute or longer. This can happen as many as a hundred times during a single night, without the individual even realizing it. This condition can reduce oxygen levels, causing the heart to pump harder.
People with OSA may stop breathing 20 to 60 or more times a night, causing sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. This repeated struggle to breathe throughout the night causes blood oxygen levels to drop. This stress on the heart, brain and other organs, leads to serious negative health consequences.
OSA has been linked to a multitude of other medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux (heart burn), impotence, obesity, attention deficit syndrome in children, high blood pressure and interference with memory.
Those most at risk of OSA include:
- Having excess weight and neck circumference
- Having high blood pressure
- Having a narrow airway
- Being male
- Being older
- A family history
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
- Prolonged sitting