What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults?

Apnea means not breathing. In OSA, you may stop breathing for short periods of time. Even when you are trying to breathe, there may be little or no airflow into the lungs. These pauses in airflow (obstructive apneas) can occur off and on during sleep, and cause you to wake up from a sound sleep. Frequent apneas can cause many problems. With time, if not treated, serious health problems may develop. OSA is more common in men, women after menopause and people who are over the age of 65. OSA can also occur in children. Also see ATS Patient Information Series fact sheet on OSA in Children. People who are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea include those with: ■ enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids ■ a family history of OSA ■ excessive weight—obesity ■ jaw problems such as micrognathia (small jaw) or retrognathia (a pulled back jaw) What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea? There are many clues that can make one suspect that you may have OSA. You may not be aware that you have OSA, but these symptoms may be more obvious to a spouse, other family member, or close friend. Common symptoms you may have during sleep: ■ Snoring that is usually loud and bothers other people trying to sleep near you. Snoring can come and go through the night. ■ Gasping or choking sounds. ■ Breathing pauses observed by someone watching you sleep. ■ Sudden or jerky body movements. ■ Restless tossing and turning. ■ Frequent awakenings from sleep. Common symptoms you may have while awake: ■ Wake up feeling like you have not had enough sleep, even after sleeping many hours. ■ Morning headache. ■ Dry or sore throat in the morning from breathing through your mouth during sleep. ■ Sleepiness during the day. ■ Fatigue or tiredness through the day. ■ Personality changes, such as mood swings and difficulty getting along with others. ■ Problems with poor memory or inability to concentrate. Can OSA be dangerous? Lack of sleep can cause you to fall asleep while driving and result in car accidents. OSA can, with time, cause high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, or early death. How do I know I have OSA? If you have symptoms of OSA, you need to talk with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can help.

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