Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of the three forms of sleep apnea. Apnea, in Greek, literally means without breath. OSA can strike anyone, but the most frequent suffers are individuals between the ages of 45-65. It is caused by an obstruction in the air passageway. The throat consists of very soft tissue that can collapse when the body is relaxed during sleep. Obesity in the throat area can often be a contributing factor here because of the increased pressure on the trachea. Many people who suffer from this condition due struggle with weight problems, although this is not universal, and there is no absolute proof that obesity alone is the ultimate cause of the disorder.
Most people do not immediately realize they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea until several years of symptoms continue to plague both their waking life and their nighttime rest. The most severe noticeable daytime symptom is excessive drowsiness. A person can sleep for over 10 hours and get up and still feel no energy, and work though the day with a dull sense of lethargy that seems to plague their every movement. At times the person may have unexplained mood swings and bouts of irritability. At night, the person may snore very loudly, and wake up repeatedly due to unexplained restlessness. The constant drowsiness is the direct result of hypoxia, a term that describes a lack of oxygen to the brain. Severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea can cause the frontal cortex of the brain to not get enough oxygen, which in turn affects motor skills and daytime levels of awareness.
These symptoms are not always consistent enough, or pronounced enough, however, to lead people who experience them to immediately conclude they suffer from this obstructive sleep apnea. A large percentage of people who have obstructive sleep apnea remain completely unaware until their ability to function is severely impeded, or when a third party notices oddities in their sleep patterns. One Houston woman, for example, did not know she had OSA until her dog repeatedly woke her up night after night at 2am-3am in the morning. The dog was alarmed that her human had stopped breathing, and jumped on the side of the bed to wake her up. After contacting her doctor, she was referred to sleep disorder test center. Such centers specialize in diagnosing both the presence of sleep apnea, which type of apnea the patient suffers from, and the severity of the condition itself.
The severity of OSA is determined by the number of breaths a person misses per hour, as shown in the following chart:
Mild OSA 5 to 15
Moderate OSA 15 to 30
Severe OSA 30 plus
Patients are often treated with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that stabilizes breathing and maintains consistent oxygen flow to the brain. The machine blows compressed air into the nasal passageways through a special mask that covers the face. CPAP therapy is highly effective, but unfortunately very uncomfortable for many patients. Alternatives have been developed that more comfortably treat the syndrome, and with equivalent results.
One of these alteratives is available through a sleep apnea treatment device. This device fits over the front and lower teeth, pushing the lower jaw slightly forward. This in turn causes the throat muscles to tighten just enough to prevent the collapse that causes OSA. Such a device is discreet, comfortable to wear, and has been clinically proven to prevent snoring and effectively treat both mild and moderate cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.