Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and psychotic episodes. While the consequences of the condition can be extremely damaging, a large number of Australians may suffer from it, without ever knowing or getting tested.
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterised by pauses in a normal breathing pattern during sleep, with breathing stopping for between 10 - 60 seconds, sometimes up to 300 times every night. It is caused by the collapse of the upper airway resulting in a restricted airflow. This collapse occurs on average every 90 seconds, resulting in oxygen and sleep deprivation.
In 1995, a study conducted by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney found at least 10% of middle - aged men and 5% of women were found to suffer from the condition. This problem would have only been exacerbated over the past 15 or so years, with the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia increasing from 40.6% in 1995, to 61.4% in 2007 / 2008. At present, it is believed that around 1 million Australians suffer from a degree of obstructive sleep apnea with the potential for serious complications.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapsing, closing the airway and constricting breathing. From this point, due to the reduced breathing frequency, the blood oxygen level of the body drops. This in turn results in reduced oxygen to the brain, which causes the brain to signal the body to wake up and take a breath.
A number of factors contribute to the development of obstructive sleep spnea. These include:
There are a number of varying symptoms and side-effects of obstructive sleep apnea. Some symptoms include:
Some of the complications include:
Testing is readily accessible to most Australians now. It involves an ambulatory polysomnography (PSG) test, which measures: EEG, ECG, heart rate, sleep staging, snoring, respiratory effort, sleep movement and oximetry.
The PSG test involves the patient sleeping in the comfort of their own home for one night, which allows for a cheaper, easier test than one performed in a hospital or private sleep clinic. The results are then assessed by sleep physicians, who can report any abnormalities observed to the patient's doctor.
For more details on testing and the sleep clinic, please make an appointment to see a Holdsworth House doctor.