Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. Your breathing stops and starts over and over again during sleep. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.
Photo: Dilek Necioğlu Örken
Who is at Risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome?
Although OSAS can occur in all ages and genders, it is most common in men aged 40-65 years. The incidence in men and women is 1/3. Obesity is another important risk factor. Especially with a body mass index over 40, the risk increases a lot. Thick neck circumference is another similar risk factor and it is recommended to investigate OSAS in people with neck circumference over 40 cm. The use of cigarettes, alcohol and sedative drugs creates a risk for OSAS with the changes they create in the upper respiratory tract. Since it is more common in some diseases, these diseases can also be considered among risk factors. Finally having family members with obstructive sleep apnea might increase your risk.
What are the Diseases Related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome?
- Upper respiratory tract pathologies - enlargement of the tonsils, nasal septum deviation, some structural changes in the upper respiratory tract and chronic nasal obstruction
- Lung diseases - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma
- Endocrine diseases - diabetes, hypothyroidism and acromegaly,
- Heart diseases - hypertension, heart failure, ischemic heart disease and arrhythmias
- Gastro-esophageal reflux
- Neurological muscle diseases
- Collagen tissue diseases - systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Psychiatric diseases - depression, psychosis
What are the Clinical Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome?
The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:
- Snoring is one of the most prominent symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS). It has been reported in 20% of adults and 60% of men over the age of 40. Patients often do not admit that they snore. Often their partners and relatives complain of snoring. It is known that 46% of snoring couples sleep in separate rooms.
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth and clenching of the teeth, which we call night bruxism, is also very common
- Morning headache
- Gastroesophageal reflux is due to increased abdominal and intrathoracic negative pressure as a result of obstruction.
- Excessive sleepiness and fatigue can be seen during the day due to sleep interruptions that occur as a result of frequently recurring apneas during sleep. In the mild form of the disease, falling asleep when watching television, reading a book or with stimuli deprivation is common. In its advanced forms, falling asleep in movies, theatre, conferences and even while driving can be seen.
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
- Personality changes, irritability, aggression, and depression are also common. Decreased libido has also been reported in patients.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome Diagnosed?
Polysomnography is the most important method for the diagnosis of OSAS. For this test, you have to lie in the sleep laboratory overnight with cables attached to various parts of the body. As long as you sleep, the sleep technician watches over you. The diagnosis is made according to the findings obtained from this test.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome Treated?
Positive airway pressure (PAP) devices are used to treat patients with sleep-related breathing disorders, including OSAS.