Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

What is OSA?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) literally means that a person stops breathing while asleep due to a temporary blockage. The person wants to breath, but cannot because the upper airway is collapsed. It can result in poor quality sleep and even an increase risk for having future cardiovascular disease (i.e.: heart attacks) or stroke.

Are you at risk?
OSA is a common syndrome. It is estimated that 4% of middle aged men and 2% of middle-aged women suffer from this condition.

The risk facts include (but are not limited to):

  1. Obesity (“Overweight” range for BMI)
  2. Large neck (> 17 inches in men)
  3. Excessive alcohol consumption
  4. Smoking
  5. Nasal Congestion
  6. Menopause
  7. Large tonsils
  8. Sleeping pills.


How do you diagnose it?

The standard in diagnosing OSA is an overnight sleep study (nocturnal polysomnogram).

Some people have witnessed apneas (stoppage of breathing) by their bed partners, but most do not know they have it.

Why is OSA important?
OSA, which is not treated, can be a source of poor sleep with daytime fatigue-sleepiness. Also OSA can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

How do you treat OSA?
There are many ways to treat OSA.

  1. Lifestyle Modification:
    • Weight loss, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake can lead to a reduction in the severity of OSA. Some people are able to treat their OSA by sleeping off their back. Lifestyle modification is always an important component of treating OSA but usually is not the only treatment involved.
  2. Dental Appliances:
    • Basically a night guard that moves your jaw a little bit forward while you sleep to give you more room in the back of the throat. It is very good for snoring and mild OSA. Sometimes a dental appliance is used in combination with surgery of Continuous positive pressure therapy (CPAP)
  3. Surgery:
    • Various procedures are available. However, most are usually now reserved for snoring and mild OSA. Surgery maybe used in combination therapy (along with a dental appliance or CPAP).
  4. CPAP:
    • It is the standard for treating OSA. Treats all severities of OSA and is the best studied and most widely used therapy. Can also be used in combination with any of the above treatments.

Authored By:
Dr. Qasim Alikhan
Dr. Judith Leech