Obsrtuctive Sleep Apnea refers to the blockage of the upper airway during sleep which can disrupt your breathing. This disruption (SDB: Sleep Disordered Breathing) can range from mild snoring to extreme blockage of the airway. Mild (benign) snoring with no airway obstruction does not usually result in any health issues, however, OSA, where there is complete blockage of the airway for longer than ten (10) seconds can be life threatening.
Obstruction of the airway occurs when the base of the tongue presses against the soft palate and the back of the throat producing an airway which is smaller than normal, or an airway which is totally blocked. Snoring is the noise the air makes as it passes the soft palate and other soft tissues in the back of the throat causing these tissues to vibrate. The result of this tissue vibration is noise–snoring.
With the airway partially blocked or totally blocked, air cannot enter the lungs normally. When sufficient air cannot enter the lungs the oxygen level in the lungs drops. As the amount of oxygen in the lungs drops, the oxygen level in the blood drops, also. This lack of oxygen will now effect the rest of the body because the body does not have adequate amounts of oxygen to function properly, leading to significant consequences to your overall health.
In mild cases of OSA, the cycle of apnea (no air) and normal breathing occurs only a few times during the night, in severe cases the cycle may repeat several hundred times.
It is estimated that over 18 million Americans suffer from OSA, and many are not even aware of it. Symtoms and medical conditions causing increased risk of sleep apnea include: