Written by Pharmacist, Andy Tan Wee Loon & Liaw Sea Yean.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea(OSA) is a potentially serious sleep-related breathing disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Another form of sleep apnea is Central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep.
- People who are overweight (Body Mass Index of 25 to 29.9) and obese (Body Mass Index of 30 and above)
- Men and women with large neck sizes: 17 inches or more for men, 16 inches or more for women
- Middle-aged and older men, and post-menopausal women
- Children with large tonsils and adenoids
- Anyone who has a family member with OSA
- People with endocrine disorderssuch as Acromegaly and Hypothyroidism
- Those suffering from nocturnal nasal congestion due to abnormal morphology, rhinitis or both.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
- Fluctuating oxygen levels
- Increased heart rate
- Chronic elevation in daytime blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke
- Higher rate of death due to heart disease
- Impaired glucose toleranceand insulin resistance
- Impaired concentration, memory loss
Sleep apnea must first be diagnosed at a sleep center or lab during an overnight sleep study, or “polysomnogram.”
The sleep study charts vital signs such as brain waves, heart beat and breathing.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Standard treatment option for moderate to severe cases of OSA and a good option for mild sleep apnea.
It provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask that they wear during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open, preventing pauses in breathing and restoring normal oxygen levels.
- Oral appliances: Mild to moderate OSA patients who either prefer it to CPAP or are unable to comply with CPAP therapy.
- Surgery: An effective option when non invasive treatments such as CPAP or oral appliances have been unsuccessful.
- Behavioral changes: Weight loss and changing from back sleeping to side-sleeping may help those with mild cases of OSA.
- Over-the-counter remedies: Although some external nasal dilator strips, internal nasal dilators, and lubricant sprays may reduce snoring, there is no evidence that they help treat OSA.
- Position Therapy: A treatment used for patients suffering from mild OSA. Patients are advised to stay off of the back while sleeping and raise the head of the bed to reduce symptoms.
- org. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://aasm.org/resources/factsheets/sleepapnea.pdf> [Accessed 9 April 2020].
- org. 2020. Sleep Apnea | National Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea> [Accessed 9 April 2020].
- org. 2020. Sleep Apnea. [online] Available at: <https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-apnea.htm> [Accessed 9 April 2020].