Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of complete or partial obstructions of the upper airway during sleep. These obstructions can lead to interrupted breathing (apnea) or shallow breathing (hypopnea) during sleep.

When you have obstructive sleep apnoea, the muscles in your throat relax too much and narrows or blocks your airway, making it difficult to breathe properly. When this occurs, you may snore loudly or make choking noises as you try to breathe, and your brain and rest of your body may not get enough oxygen.


These interruptions can happen several times during the night, often without you even realizing it. They can lead to poor quality sleep, which results in daytime sleepiness and fatigue. It can contribute to various health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression.

Common symptoms of OSA include, loud and frequent snoring, episodes of stopped breathing during sleep as witnessed by another person, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, morning headache, difficulty staying asleep (insomnia), excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia), and difficulty paying attention while awake.

Diagnosis typically involves a sleep study, and treatments range from lifestyle changes like losing weight or changing sleep positions, to use of a device to keep the airway open while you sleep, use of oral appliances designed to open the throat, or in some severe cases, surgery.

Always consult a healthcare provider if you suspect you have OSA or if you are experiencing any of the described symptoms.

Causes of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a sleeping disorder that occurs when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep, causing a blockage in the airway. Several factors contribute to the onset of this disorder:

1. Excess weight: Obesity greatly increases the risk of sleep apnoea. Fatty deposits around your upper airway may obstruct the breathing.

2. Throat muscles and tongue: During sleep, muscles relax. However, in people with obstructive sleep apnoea, the throat and tongue muscles relax more than normal. This excessive relaxation of muscles can cause the airway to get blocked.

3. Gender: Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnoea than women. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause.

4. Age: OSA is much more frequent in older adults. Middle and older age groups are at increased risk.

5. Family history: Having family members with sleep apnoea might increase your risk.

6. Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers: These substances can relax the muscles in the throat, contributing to the blocking of the airway.

7. Smoking: People who smoke are three times more likely to have OSA. Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

8. Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnoea.

9. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, chronic lung diseases like asthma, and hypothyroidism can increase the risk of developing OSA.

10. Physical attributes: Certain physical attributes like a narrow throat, thick neck, or round head may cause a smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area, increasing the likelihood of OSA.

It’s important to note that these factors increase the chance of having obstructive sleep apnoea, but presence of these factors does not guarantee the condition. It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea such as excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep or abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking.

Risk Factors of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that involves recurrent cessation or significant reduction of airflow in the presence of breathing effort. Several risk factors have been associated with the occurrence and development of OSA:

1. Obesity: This is the most significant risk factor for OSA. Excess weight can increase throat tissue size, causing it to collapse and block the airway during sleep.

2. Age: Although OSA can occur at any age, the risk increases as you get older, especially when you’re over the age of 40.

3. Gender: Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnoea than women. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause.

4. Family history: Having family members with OSA might increase your risk.

5. Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers: These substances relax the muscles in your throat, increasing the risk of airway obstruction during sleep.

6. Smoking: Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than are people who’ve never smoked. Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

7. Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.

8. Health conditions: Conditions such as hypothyroidism, acromegaly, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other hormonal disorders can increase your risk of OSA. In addition, people with cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes often have higher rates of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Remember, even though these are common risk factors, OSA can still occur in individuals without these traits or conditions. If you or someone you know has symptoms of OSA such as loud snoring, long pauses in breathing, gasping, or choking during sleep, or excessive daytime sleepiness, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. It typically happens when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open. Here are the common signs and symptoms:

1. Loud Snoring: This is often the first noticeable sign, usually reported by a sleep partner. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

2. Episodes of Breathing Cessation during Sleep: Periods where you stop breathing during sleep, which would be reported by another person.

3. Gasping for Air during Sleep: This generally occurs after a period of apnea or breath-holding, also often observed by a partner.

4. Awakening with Dry Mouth: This may be due to breathing through mouth when your nose airway is blocked.

5. Morning Headache: Lack of oxygen or fragmented sleep may lead to morning headaches.

6. Insomnia: Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) or difficulty getting to sleep could be indicative signs.

7. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (Hypersomnia): People with OSA often experience significant daytime fatigue due to interrupted sleep.

8. Difficulty paying Attention: Lack of quality sleep impacts cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate.

9. Irritability: Mood changes, including irritability or depression, are common in people with sleep apnea.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical advice as sleep apnea can lead to more serious health complication if left untreated.

Diagnosis Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a common disorder which involves shallow or paused breathing while sleeping. These breathing interruptions can last for a few seconds to several minutes and often occur hundreds of times a night.

The cause of OSA is usually a mechanical problem in the throat, often the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, blocking off the airway, and causing interruptions to normal breathing. This is usually recognized by a pattern of loud snoring, gasping, or choking sounds that are followed by periods of silence.

The condition disruptively impacts the sleep cycle, often leading to poor quality of sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms may include morning headache, difficulty concentrating, memory or learning problems, mood changes such as irritability, depression or anxiety, frequent night-time urination, and dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening.

OSA is typically diagnosed with a type of sleep study such as polysomnography or a home sleep apnoea test. Treatment is dependent on severity and could include lifestyle changes, usage of positive airway pressure device or possibly surgery. Addressing OSA is important because if it’s left untreated it can lead to a host of other health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, and heart disease.

Treatment of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition where your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep resulting in snoring and fatigue. The treatment for OSA includes lifestyle changes, therapies and surgeries. Here’s a more detailed explanation:

1. Lifestyle changes: For milder cases of sleep apnoea, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes. These may include losing weight if you’re overweight or quitting smoking.

2. Use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): This is the most common method used to treat adults with sleep apnoea. A CPAP machine delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep. The air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, which will keep your upper airway passages open, and thus preventing apnoea and snoring.

3. Other airway pressure devices: If CPAP continues to be a problem for you, you may be able to use a different type of airway pressure device. An automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) device can automatically adjust the pressure while you’re sleeping.

4. Oral appliances: Some people prefer this over CPAP. It’s designed to open your throat by bringing your jaw forward, relieving snoring and mild OSA.

5. Supplemental oxygen: Using additional oxygen while you sleep might help if you have sleep apnoea

6. Surgery: In some cases, surgery is an option. It includes Tissue removal, Tissue shrinkage, Jaw repositioning, Implants, Nerve stimulation or even creating a new air passageway.

Remember, every case of OSA is different and it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate treatment.

Medications commonly used for Obstructive sleep apnoea

There are several medications that might be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), though it’s important to note that they are usually used in conjunction with other treatments such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances, or lifestyle changes. Here are a few:

1. Modafinil and Armodafinil: These are stimulants that promote wakefulness and are typically prescribed to help manage excessive daytime sleepiness, a common symptom of OSA.

2. Antidepressants: Though not a first-line treatment for OSA, some studies suggest that certain antidepressants might help reduce the number of apnea events for some individuals. They can also help manage any coexisting conditions such as depression or anxiety.

3. Decongestants: These can help open up the airway and might be helpful if nasal congestion contributes to sleep apnea.

4. Theophylline: This is an older medication that decreases the number of apnea and hypopnea (reduction in breathing) episodes and improves oxygen saturation levels. However, its use is reserved for cases where other treatments aren’t effective due to its potential side effects.

5. Solriamfetol: Approved by the FDA in 2019, Solriamfetol is an effective stimulant medication commonly used to improve wakefulness in patients with excessive daytime sleepiness associated with sleep apnea.

It’s imperative to discuss with a healthcare provider before starting any medication for OSA, as each has potential side effects and may interact with other medications. It’s worth noting that none of these medications treat the apnea events themselves—they only manage the symptoms. Other treatments (like CPAP, oral appliances, lifestyle changes, or, in severe cases, surgery) are needed to treat the underlying cause of OSA.

Prevention of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. It can lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which impacts quality of life and increases the risk of road traffic accidents, as well as heart disease in the long term. Here are some steps you can take to prevent or manage OSA:

1. Maintain Healthy Weight: People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing OSA. Maintaining a healthy weight can help keep your airways clear, reducing the risk of obstructions.

2. Quit Smoking: Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, which can cause or exacerbate OSA. Therefore, quitting smoking can help in preventing this disorder.

3. Avoid Alcohol, Sleeping Pills, and Sedatives: These substances can relax the muscles in the throat and can interfere with breathing.

4. Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and can also provide numerous other health benefits.

5. Establish Regular Sleep Patterns: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Regular sleep patterns can help you relax and sleep better.

6. Sleep Position: Try to avoid sleeping flat on your back as this makes it more likely for your throat muscles to collapse and block your airway. Sleeping on your side or elevating the head of the bed can help lessen this risk.

7. Treat Chronic Nasal Congestion: Nasal congestion can make OSA worse. Consult your doctor about treatment options if you have problems with chronic nasal congestion.

8. Oral Devices: In certain cases, oral devices may be suggested to keep your airway open. These devices help to keep the airway open by positioning the lower jaw and tongue properly.

Lastly, if you’ve been diagnosed with OSA, it’s crucial that you adhere strictly to your doctor’s recommended treatment plan, which may include lifestyle changes, use of an oral device, or use of a machine that delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) while sleeping. Keep in mind that prevention measures and remedies will be most effective when they’re part of a comprehensive care plan supervised by a healthcare provider.

FAQ’s about Obstructive sleep apnoea

1. What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?
OSA is a common sleep disorder that causes breathing to become shallow or stop altogether during sleep. This is caused by either a partial or complete blockage of the airway.

2. What are the symptoms of OSA?
Common symptoms include snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headache, difficulty staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, attention problems and irritability.

3. What causes OSA?
OSA is caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the back of your throat, which can block your airway during sleep. Factors that increase risk include excess weight, narrowed airway, chronic nasal congestion, smoking, diabetes, menopause, and family history.

4. How is OSA diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually based on a combination of symptoms, medical history, and tests carried out in a sleep clinic. These may include polysomnography (a sleep study) or home sleep apnoea testing, which monitor and measure various signals during sleep.

5. How is OSA treated?
Treatment often involves lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don’t improve symptoms, treatments such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances designed to keep the throat open, or even surgery, may be recommended.

6. Can OSA be cured?
There’s no cure for OSA, but treatment can effectively manage symptoms and prevent or alleviate associated complications, from high blood pressure to heart disease.

7. Is OSA dangerous?
If left untreated, it can increase the risk of more serious health problems over time, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, because it can cause daytime fatigue, it can also increase the risk of accidents.

8. Who is at risk for OSA?
OSA can affect people of all ages, but it’s more common in men than in women, especially men who are overweight and over the age of 40. Postmenopausal women are also at increased risk.

9. Can children have OSA?
Yes, children can have OSA. Common causes in children include enlarged tonsils or adenoids and dental conditions like a large overbite. It can also be genetic. Signs can include heavy snoring, bedwetting, unusual sleep positions and problems at school.

10. Does snoring mean I have OSA?
While snoring is a common symptom of OSA, not everyone who snores has the condition. If your snoring is accompanied by other symptoms like excessive daytime fatigue or significant interruptions in breathing during sleep, then it’s worth speaking to a doctor.

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you or a loved one may have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

Useful links

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. These episodes can lead to reduced or completely stopped airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe, and are usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation and terminated by brief arousals from sleep.

Here are some useful articles from credible journals about obstructive sleep apnoea:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32224049/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23910433/

Remember to consult a healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health based on these articles.

Complications of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a potentially serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep due to the relaxation of throat muscles. There are several complications associated with obstructive sleep apnoea:

1. Daytime Fatigue and Sleepiness: OSA causes frequent breaks in your sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating during the day. Successful or unsuccessful attempts to breath during sleep can further contribute to not getting a good night’s rest.

2. Heart Problems: OSA can cause blood oxygen levels to drop during sleep stoppages. This can increase blood pressure and put strain on the cardiovascular system, leading to a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

3. Type 2 Diabetes: OSA increases the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, possibly due to the disruption in your sleep and subsequent effects on your metabolism.

4. Metabolic Syndrome: This condition comprises several health issues including high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, increased waist circumference, and high blood sugar that increase the chance of heart disease.

5. Liver Problems: People with OSA are also more likely to have abnormal liver function tests and show signs of scarring (i.e., nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).

6. Complications with Medications and Surgery: People with OSA may have complications if they take certain medications or undergo anesthesia, due to difficulties with their breathing.

7. Partners Can Be Affected: The loud snoring that can come with OSA may not just cause health problems for the individual, it could also disrupt the sleep of those around them.


In addition, sleep apnoea may also lead to, or worsen, cognitive conditions such as memory loss, depression, and even dementia. Due to its serious implications, it’s important for anyone who may have symptoms of a sleep disorder to contact a healthcare provider for further evaluation.

Home remedies of Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a serious health condition characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep due to the blockage of airflow. It’s typically treated professionally with therapies such as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), but alongside professional treatment, there are several lifestyle changes and home remedies that may lessen the symptoms:

1. Weight Loss: If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can significantly reduce sleep apnoea symptoms or even cure the condition.

2. Regular Exercise: Regular exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes a day, can help reduce symptoms.

3. Avoid Alcohol and Smoking: Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles which can exacerbate sleep apnea. Smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

4. Maintain Regular Sleep Hours: Keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and improve your sleep.

5. Avoid Sleep-Inducing Medications and Sedatives: These relax the muscles in the back of your throat, interfering with breathing.

6. Sleeping Position: Avoid lying on your back as it can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat, blocking the airway. A position such as sleeping on your side can help.

7. Healthy Diet: Embrace a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.

8. Avoid Caffeine: Limit your intake of caffeine, especially close to bedtime, as it can interfere with your sleep cycle.

9. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Dehydration can cause the mouth and nasal passages to become dry, which can lead to additional snoring and apnea events.

10. Use Humidifiers: Using a humidifier in your room can help by opening up the airway, reducing congestion and promoting clearer breathing.

11. Nasal Decongestant: Natural or over-the-counter nasal decongestants can improve airflow when congestion is a factor.

Remember, these home remedies are designed to complement, not replace, professional medical advice and treatment. It’s essential to consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea.

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Sleep Disorders,

Last Update: January 5, 2024