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What happens to the body during an Obstructive Sleep Apnea episode?

man snoring in bedYour body is normally able to easily breathe in air as you sleep, and it flows through your nose and mouth, down the back of your throat, and into your lungs. When you breathe out, the process is reversed. But if you have obstructive sleep apnea, your airway becomes blocked or partially blocked and your body is unable to get the air or the restorative sleep it needs.

In this blog, the sleep specialists at eos sleep explain more about what happens to your body during an obstructive sleep apnea episode.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious disorder that occurs when your airway is repeatedly blocked during sleep. An apnea is a pause in breathing, which can occur repeatedly during the night for patients who suffer from this sleep disorder.

What are its symptoms?

OSA can cause the following symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and/or fatigue
  • Chronic loud snoring
  • Gasping or snorting during sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • A sore throat or dry mouth in the morning
  • Irritability
  • Trouble with memory and/or concentration

In addition, sleep apnea increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

What happens during an obstructive sleep apnea episode?

OSA can be compared to trying to drink a milkshake through a collapsed paper straw. If the straw stays open, it’s easy to drink, but as you suck in, the straw collapses and makes it difficult to get any milkshake. This is similar to what happens during OSA as your airway becomes blocked and air can’t flow smoothly from your nose into your lungs.

In an effort to open up your airway and pull air into your lungs, your chest muscles and diaphragm have to work harder. As this occurs, you may gasp and snort as your body tries to take in more air. Ultimately, your brain and other organs can be deprived of the oxygen they need to function properly as this stoppage in breathing occurs many times throughout the night.

What are the treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea?

Treatment for sleep apnea can include the following:

  • Losing weight if you need to
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Avoiding the use of sleeping pills and alcohol
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure machine) – delivers a stream of air through a hose and mask worn over your nose or mouth
  • Oral appliance therapy – a custom-made device similar to an orthodontic retainer gently moves your tongue and/or jaw slightly forward
  • Using medication – medication to help with allergies or sinuses problems can help alleviate symptoms
  • Surgery – used to correct the underlying cause of sleep apnea if non-invasive therapies fail, surgery can be used to correct a deviated septum, remove nasal polyps, or address other issues

If you’re experiencing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea or have already been diagnosed with this disorder, make an appointment today with eos sleep. We provide effective, patient-centered treatment that can give you long-term relief from symptoms and help you get a good night’s sleep.

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