What is it?
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of OSA are often first spotted by a partner, friend or family member who notices problems while you sleep. Signs of OSA in someone sleeping can include: * loud snoring * noisy and laboured breathing * repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting Some people with OSA may also experience night sweats and may wake up frequently during the night to urinate. During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers your brain to pull you out of deep sleep – either to a lighter sleep or to wakefulness – so your airway reopens and you can breathe normally. These repeated sleep interruptions can make you feel very tired during the day. You’ll usually have no memory of your interrupted breathing, so you may be unaware you have a problem.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, even a slight loss of excess weight may help relieve constriction of your airway. Losing weight can also improve your health and quality of life, and may reduce your sleepiness during the day.
- Exercise. Exercising, such as aerobic exercise and strength training, can help improve your condition. Aim to exercise about 150 minutes a week, and generally try to exercise most days of the week.
- Sleep on your side or abdomen rather than on your back. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. To prevent sleeping on your back, try sewing a tennis ball in the back of your pajama top.
- Keep your nasal passages open while you sleep. If you have congestion, use a saline nasal spray to help keep your nasal passages open. Talk to your doctor about using nasal decongestants or antihistamines, because some medications may only be recommended for short-term use.
- Avoid alcohol and medications such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Alcohol can worsen obstructive sleep apnea and sleepiness and may lead to weight gain. Certain medications also can worsen your sleep.
- Quit smoking.
- Don’t sleep on your back.
Things to watch out for
OSA is a treatable condition. Speak to your GP for further assessment and treatment plan.