Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Normal Breathing

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Snoring (Partial Obstruction)

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Obstruction (Apnea)

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What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common sleep disorder of all the sleep disorders.  It is characterized by repetitive awakenings from sleep due to obstruction of the airway.  These obstructions result in reduced airflow into the airways, therefore decreasing the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.  When the brain detects this reduction in oxygen, the individual wakes up (sometimes with a choke or a gasp) which then opens the airway and normal breathing resumes.  However, this disruptive sleep pattern cycle continues throughout the night, often going unnoticed by the individual.   


Research suggests that aproximately 25% of men and 10% of women present with symptoms and factors associated with having or developing OSA.  These statistics make Obstructive Sleep Apnea as common as hypertension or diabetes.    


In British Columbia, the prevalence of OSA is increasing mainly due to population aging and rising rates of obesity.  Recent studies indicate that 40% of males over the age of 60 show evidence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  The most recent population census of South Delta suggests that 57% of the population are over the age of 60.  However, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can occur in individuals of any age, weight or gender.


The major symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:

  • snoring
  • unrefreshed sleep 
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • lack of concentration or memory loss
  • irritability
  • waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • morning headaches
  • waking up choking or gasping
  • frequent nighttime washroom use

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Predisposing Risk Factors Associated with OSA:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can affect anyone, including children.  However, there are certain factors that may increase your risk of developing OSA.        


  1. Excess Weight.  Individuals with an elevated BMI (Body Mass Index) have four times greater risk of developing OSA than individuals with a normal BMI.  Not everyone who has OSA has an elevated BMI, however.
  2. Narrowed Airway and Family History.  Individuals with OSA may have inherited their narrowed airway, therefore it is important to watch for familial indications (other family members have OSA).    
  3. Being Male.  Males are twice as likely to have OSA than females.     
  4. Age.  OSA occurs significantly more often in older aged adults.  Recent studies indicate that 40% of males over the age of 60 show evidence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Research indicates that the risk also increases in post menopausal women.  
  5. Neck Circumference.  Individuals with thicker necks may have narrower airways, which can predispose individuals OSA. (Males > 17 inches or 43 cm / Females > 15 inches or 38 cm).
  6. Smoking.  Individuals who smoke are three times more likely to have OSA when compared to those who have never smoked.
  7. Alcohol/Sedatives. These substances relax the muscles in the throat and can lead to narrowed airways during sleep.
  8. Nasal Congestion.  Difficulty breathing through the nose, whether from anatomical conditions or simply allergies, increases the risk of developing OSA.

Risks Associated with Untreated OSA:

ARE YOU AT RISK?

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Epworth Sleepiness Scale

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Complete the questionnaire below 

to determine your risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

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