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Obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA) is a type of sleep disorder that causes you to repeatedly stop and restart breathing as you sleep.

Under normal conditions, the muscles found at the back of your throat continually hold your airway open so air can get to your lungs. These muscles relax somewhat as you sleep. But if your airway is especially narrow, these muscles can actually block your airway when they relax. This blockage can cause you to stop breathing for periods of up to 20 seconds at a time. This can occur as often as every couple minutes all night long.

Obstructive sleep apnea can cause restless sleep, so that your sleep never serves its intended purpose…leaving you feeling drowsy during the day.

OSA causes your blood oxygen level to decrease, because of the long periods of not breathing. This puts extra strain on your heart and raises your blood pressure.

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Some of the tell-tale symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea:

  • mood changes, depression, irritability
  • sudden waking from sleep, short of breath
  • waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • morning headaches
  • chronic loud snoring (the inability to stop snoring is often the first thing noticed by others who sleep near you)
  • memory problems

OSA is more common in men than women, and risk increases with age. Other risk factors can include:

  • extra fat around┬áthe airway
  • high blood pressure
  • neck size
  • use of sedatives or alcohol
  • cigarette smoking
  • a naturally-occuring narrowed airway (due to heredity or enlarged tonsils)
Alternate spelling: sleep apnoea | Common misspellings: sleep apnia, sleep apena, sleep apneia
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