What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Snoring?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea—a sleep-related breathing disorder. It is a condition that occurs when your airways are repeatedly blocked throughout the night, either completely or partially. In order to open up your airways to help you breathe, your diaphragm and chest muscles are forced to work harder than usual.


What are the symptoms of OSA?

Snoring is one of the most obvious signs of OSA, but snoring does not always indicate a serious problem. Sleep apnea may also not always cause snoring. Here are other signs and symptoms to know. 

  • Mouth breathing
  • Waking up in the middle of the night with gasps or chokes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep walking
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleep terrors
  • Bedwetting
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty controlling emotions


Causes and Risk Factors  of OSA and Snoring

  • The soft tissues in the back of your throat collapsing
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids—glands located at the back of your throat
  • Obesity—obstructs the airway
  • Weakness in the tongue and throat muscles
  • Small jaw or overbite
  • Nasal allergies
  • Narrow airways
  • High blood pressure 
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Old age


Complications of OSA

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to other health complications, and in some cases, life-threatening conditions due to the lower flow of oxygen to your vital organs. Some complications of OSA include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart-related issues (e.g. abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Complications with surgery and medications
  • Liver problems
  • Problems with growth and neurocognition in children


When should you see a doctor?

If you experience the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and suspect that you may be suffering from this condition, visit an ENT specialist to get it checked. Seek medical attention too, if you or a family member observes the following symptoms:

  • Snoring so loudly is disrupts others
  • Waking up gasping or choking
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness that affects your day-to-day life

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea?

The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. It is associated with the soft tissue in the back of your throats, which can block the airway when relaxed. Other common causes of obstruction may be structural abnormalities in the nose and the throat.

Is there a way to treat obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan depending on the cause of your sleep apnea. In mild cases, medications alone will be enough to keep your condition in control.

How serious is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is linked to short and long term complications. Short term complications are lack of concentration, fatigue and irritability. Long term complications are hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, increased risk of strokes, increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome (such as diabetes).

How do I know if I have obstructive sleep apnea?

If you wake up during the night gasping or choking, with a dry mouth or throat, wake up with a headache, or feel excessively tired during the day, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Do consult a doctor for a diagnosis.