Obstructive sleep apnoea

What is obstructive sleep apnoea and what causes it?

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder and respiratory condition in which the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, causing interruptions in breathing. Breathing is interrupted by repeated episodes of apnoea and hypopnoea throughout the night, in which apnoea refers to a total blockage of the airway by the muscles and soft tissues in the throat and hypopnoea refers to a partial blockage of the airway. Each of these types of breathing interruptions lasts for 10 seconds or more, causing a lack of oxygen which triggers the brain to wake the individual from slumber to a lighter sleep or to wakefulness to gasp for air, causing interrupted sleep.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?

Of course, any sleep disturbance can have a big impact on one's functioning, productivity and quality of life, causing chronic fatigue during the day. It is, therefore, crucial to see Dr Mothilal if you are experiencing any of the following obstructive sleep apnoea related symptoms:

  • Loud snoring
  • Noisy breathing
  • Repeated episodes where snoring is interrupted by abrupt gasping or snorting
  • Daytime fatigue, sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Headache on awakening
  • Dry mouth on awakening
  • Night Sweats

Those who may be at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnoea include people who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, have high blood pressure with smaller airways in your nose, throat, or mouth and are smokers.

How is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) diagnosed?

Dr Mothilal is able to diagnose this condition through sleep studies in which your night-time sleep patterns are recorded overnight. Using special monitors, record the airflow, blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, brain activity and heart rate while you sleep. In this way, he can see exactly how many times your breathing was impaired during sleep, the type of sleep apnoea you have and how best to treat it.

What does treatment involve?

Aside from making various lifestyle changes such as losing weight, cutting down on alcohol and sleeping on one's side, your physician can provide you with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device or a mouthguard. A mouthguard can be used to keep your jaw and tongue from falling back into your mouth, causing an obstruction, while the CPAP device is worn as a mask and forces constant and continuous air through the nose or mouth to prevent your airways from closing while you sleep.

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Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital

Suite 1613, 16th floor, Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cnr DF Malan Street and Rua Bartholemeu Dias Plain, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8001