Woman Stretching In BedSnoring and night time wakefulness are sometimes caused by a physical problem known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Snoring is caused by the narrowing of the upper airway. The transition to OSA occurs when the airway collapses.

Sleep Physician Dr Scott Phung from Wexford Sleep says snoring, combined with unexplained tiredness and interrupted sleep, can be often attributed to OSA.

“OSA interrupts sleep when the person wakes up because they’ve stopped breathing. However some patients can sleep uninterrupted even with significant OSA,” Dr Phung says.

“In the longer term, OSA can have a significant impact on health as when you stop breathing, your oxygen saturations drop resulting in an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.”

“This, in turn, increases the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks and ultimately decreases life expectancy.”

Traditionally, snoring and OSA was thought to be a problem of older, overweight people, but now it is diagnosed in all age groups.

This may be due to increased recognition of the condition by both doctors and the general population, the increase in weight in our society, and the aging population. Up to 30 percent of patients with OSA have a normal weight.

OSA is a common indicator for adenotonsillectomy in children which can be curative, although this is not an effective treatment for adults.

There are a number of treatments available for OSA, including weight loss, a mandibular advancement splint (MAS), the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine that splints opens the upper airway with air blown through a tube and mask, and surgery.

“Patients notice a huge difference with the use of the CPAP machine, although it takes some time to get used to it,” Dr Phung says.

“Working through the initial problems is definitely worth it.”

“Treating OSA can really reduce health risks and contribute to a much better quality of life.”

Visit www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au for more information on OSA and other sleep disorders.

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