Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA), the most prevalent of the hypersomnolence disorders, affects approximately 4% of adult males and 2% of adult females. It is characterized by heavy snoring and the recurrent collapse of the throat airway during sleep which generally requires arousal to re-establish an open airway and resume breathing. Patients suffer from both sleep fragmentation (frequent arousal) and the recurrent lack of oxygen with possible cardiovascular complications. It is therefore important to recognize this condition and treat it.
If you snore loudly, have frequent pauses in breathing while asleep, wake up gasping for air, suffer from sleepiness during the day, fall asleep easily during the day, there is a high probability that you suffer from sleep apnea.
One of the best predictors of whether there are upper airway problems during sleep is neck circumference. More than 16" - could be a snorer, more than 17" - could have sleep apnea. One can still have sleep apnoea with smaller necks but it is less common.
Supportive treatment of obstructive sleep apnea includes maximizing nasal breathing, and more intensive approaches such as dental appliances and upper airway surgery. Treatment of OSA has been shown to improve both quality of life and may reduce medical complications.
Strychnine has been tried to cure sleep apnea - it works to a certain extent, but there are worries that spouses might be tempted to give an overdose when the snoring is particularly bad!
Brain damage, not a blocked airway, may be the cause of a sleeping disorder that causes explosively loud snoring and fitful nights, US researchers recently discovered. Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles say patients who suffer from the disorder, known as sleep apnea, also show a dramatic early loss of grey matter.
“Our findings show that sleep apnea patients also suffer disordered wiring in brain regions that control muscles of the airway,” said UCLA neurobiology professor Ronald Harper, who led research into the problem. These glitches may lead to the syndrome, which is exacerbated by a small airway,” he added of the research, details of which appear in the latest edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Doctors had previously blamed the condition on a narrowed airway caused by enlarged tonsils, a small jaw or excess fat, Harper said.
“Our findings suggest this sleep apnea is a pre-existing condition, that abnormal brain wiring from childhood contributes to the onset of the disorder in adulthood,” Harper said. Harper added that obstructive sleep apnea patients often display other traits that suggest subtle brain damage, including problems with memory, thought and motor skills. The repeated oxygen loss from sleep apnea may damage other brain structures that regulate memory and thinking.
A sleep study may be required, especially in severe cases.