Ottawa Surgical Sleep Apnea Clinic
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Sleep Apnea

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious breathing problem that interrupts your sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea means you have short pauses in your breathing when you sleep. These breathing pauses Ė called apneas or apnea events Ė last for a minimum of 10 seconds, sometimes longer. People with obstructive sleep apnea can stop breathing dozens or hundreds of times each night. Obstructive sleep apnea (also called OSA or obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome) stops you from having the restful sleep you need to stay healthy. If itís not treated, sleep apnea can lead to major health problems, accidents, and early death. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can result in: increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes; increased risk of, or worsening, heart failure; make arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats, more likely; and increased chances of having a work-related or driving accident

How Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Affect Your Sleep?

Obstructive sleep apnea stops you from breathing normally at night. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you probably repeat this cycle while you sleep.

Firstly , you may sleep quietly and breathe normally. The air in your airway (breathing tube) flows easily to your lungs. Then, you begin to snore loudly. This is a sign that your airway is partly blocked. A partly blocked airway means less air can get through to your lungs, and your oxygen level drops. (aka hypopnea)

Next , your airway closes off completely. No air reaches your lungs. Your brain is telling you to breathe as usual, but you canít take in a breath because your airway has closed off. This is called apnea. After a pause of 10-30 seconds or more, your brain realizes you havenít been breathing, so it jolts you awake enough for you to take a breath. You take in a big gasp of air and start breathing again.
This cycle can continue through the night: you breathe quietly; you snore; you have a pause in your breathing; you gasp for breath; and you start breathing again. Most people have dozens or hundreds of sleep apnea events a night. This means dozens or hundreds of interruptions of sleep. You canít get the restful sleep you need to be healthy.
The combination of both apnea events (pauses in breathing) and hyponea events (partly blocked breathing) is called obstructive sleep apnea-hyponea syndrome (OSAHS).