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Is obstructive sleep apnea a sleep disorder?

Nancy Nadolski
Sleep Medicine

Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the sleep disorders that gets a lot of press. There are approximately 81 sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are anything that stand in the way of falling asleep, staying asleep and not feeling rested the next day.

Symptoms of this sleep disorder are: Snoring, bed partner will witness stopped breathing and then gasping to breathe again. These folks often wake more tired than when they went to bed and start the day out of bed with a headache.

If you have any symptoms that get in the way of you having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and not feeling rested the next day, talk to your health care provider about your symptoms because help is available. 

Yes, in fact obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA) is one of the more popular sleep disorders known to all types of physicians, not just sleep specialist. Symptoms may include: snoring, breif periods of not breathing during sleep, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, moodiness and nighttime urination. While this tends to be found in people who are overweight, not all patients are heavy. There are excellent treatments available including CPAP, oral appliances, or surgeries.  
Obstructive sleep apnea is a very important sleep disorder due the associated general health risks when left untreated. Obstructive sleep apnea results when during sleep, there is either complete or partial closure of the upper airway resulting in inability to take in a deep breath of air. This often results in a drop in blood oxygen levels and an arousal (awakening of less than 15 seconds). This course of events leads to significant sleep fragmentation and daytime sleepiness. People may be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea due to large neck circumference, crowded upper airway anatomy, and obesity. The risks of untreated obstructive sleep apnea (particularly that which is severe in nature) are high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and accidents due to sleepiness. Obstructive sleep apnea is treated with CPAP which stands for continuous positive airway pressure. This air pressure, delivered via a mask, prevents upper airway closure and reduces the risk of complications associated with obstructive sleep apnea. For milder forms of obstructive sleep apnea, other treatment options exist including an oral appliance that may be created by a dentist. Obstructive sleep apnea is by and large a chronic disorder but sometimes can be "cured" by significant weight loss in patient's whose obesity is a significant contributing factor to the problem.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. It happens when the soft tissue in the back of your throat or upper airway becomes too relaxed and obstructs, or blocks, your airway. This can lead to breathing problems and interrupted sleep. If you are overweight, losing weight may help relieve your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.