Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sleep Apnea...Does it Concern Me?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA, is a challenge to many people and as sleep medicine is a field that has come to the forefront in the past few years, sleep apnea has been put in the spotlight. Sleep apnea is a condition where people have moments where they miss breathes while they sleep. OSA is more common than you might think. As well, it is amazing how many other diseases and conditions are affected by and linked with sleep apnea.
Does this really affect that many people? Chances are you know someone that this is affecting. It may even be you or someone in your family. An estimated 26% of Americans live with OSA, that’s an average of 1 in 4 people. To test for OSA, a sleep study should be done. During the study, the individual is monitored while they sleep. Their sleep activity is then scored using a standard called the Apnea-Hypopnea index. A score of 5 or more per hour would give you this diagnosis of OSA.
So who is at risk for OSA? Generally, men are twice as likely to have OSA as compared to women, however up to 4% of women also have OSA. As you age, your chances to suffer from OSA also increase. Increasing steadily from 18 to 45 where they plateau, and then finally increasing sharply at age 65.

Another significant risk factor is also the most documented. Obesity. As the body mass increases, the prevalence of OSA goes up progressively. Also contributing to risk are certain internal facial abnormalities such as a wide based tongue, large tonsils, adenoids and a narrow jaw. Chronic nasal congestion is also another factor for OSA risk. Finally, smokers are three times more likely to get OSA compared to non-smokers.

The exact cause of apnea is unknown. OSA can be broken down into 2 types, central and obstructive apnea. Central Apnea is defined where the brain fails to stimulate the body to breathe. This is called diminished neural input. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by other factors such as obesity, craniofacial abnormalities, and soft tissue upper airway abnormalities.

So what do you need to look for? Some features of OSA that could tell you if you have it include: snoring and daytime sleepiness. These are the most common complaints. Additional symptoms include restless sleep, fragmented sleep, poor concentration, periods of not breathing, loud snorts, gasping sensation or smothering. Daytime sleepiness or fatigue is a very common presenting feature as well. This usually is noticed during boring or monotonous situations, such as meetings. One way to find out if you suffer from any of the sleep related symptoms is to ask your partner or family member as they may have greater insight than the patient.

Here is a list of some common symptoms:

• Awakening with a sensation of choking or smothering
• Awakening with a dry mouth
• Restless of fitful sleep
• Moodiness
• Lack of concentration
• Morning headache
• Nighttime urination
• History of hypertension( high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes,reflux( GERD), obesity and can’t lose the weight.
• Restless legs syndrome

I recommend testing should be done on anyone who snores and who has daytime sleepiness or who snores and has any of the features shown in the above list. Also, if you are a pilot, bus and truck driver or other critical profession you should have a sleep study if you snore.

There are many diseases related to OSA! More and more studies are linking the condition to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, inability to lose weight, or even psychiatric illness.

So, if you think you qualify for the diagnosis, talk to your doctor. The best test in my opinion is the overnight sleep study. Treatment will be based upon the results!

For more information contact us at 425-899-2525 or visit us at


  1. Great JOb! i hope i don't have sleep apnea... =)

  2. I am setup for a study. With hopes that my sleeping will improve tied to excellent therapy.

    Thanks Dr Frank.
    I will post to the results.