Obstructive sleep apnoea


Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s throat muscles relax and the airway becomes blocked, preventing them from taking a full breath. This leads to pauses in breathing during sleep and can cause loud snoring and a lack of oxygen to the brain. OSA can lead to serious health problems if it is left untreated, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Treatment typically includes lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol before bed, and avoiding sleeping pills. In some cases, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device may be used to help keep the airway open.


The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea include:

  • Loud snoring.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
  • Waking up gasping and/or choking.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Unrefreshing sleep.
  • Morning headaches.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Waking up to urinate frequently during the night.
  • Decreased libido.
  • Moodiness and irritability.
  • Difficulty staying awake while performing daily activities.


The most common cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is due to an obstruction in the airway caused by the collapse of the tissues in the throat and/or the narrowing of the airway due to larger than normal tonsils. Other factors that can contribute to OSA include obesity, small recessed lower jaw, large tongues, enlarged uvula, large or cystic adenoids, congenital abnormalities of the airway, endocrine disorders, neuromuscular diseases, and certain medications. In some cases, the underlying cause of OSA may be unknown.

Risk factors

The risk factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) include:

  1. Being overweight or obese: Having a high body mass index (BMI) is a major risk factor for OSA.
  2. Having a large neck size: A larger neck size can narrow the airway, making it more difficult to keep it open during sleep, resulting in OSA.
  3. Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop OSA.
  4. Age: OSA is more common in adults over 40, as the risk increases with age.
  5. Smoking: Smoking can narrow the airway and can increase the risk of OSA.
  6. Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can cause the muscles in the throat to relax and collapse, leading to OSA.
  7. Being sedentary: A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of OSA, as physical activity can help to keep the throat open.
  8. Use of certain medications: Medications with sedative effects can relax the throat muscles, leading to OSA.
  9. Family history: A family history of OSA increases the risk of developing the condition.
  10. 0. Nasal obstruction: A blocked nose can create an obstruction in the airway, resulting in OSA.


Obstructive sleep apnoea is typically diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination, assessment of medical history, and a sleep study. Common signs and symptoms of the condition include excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, pauses in breathing, and witnessed episodes of choking or gasping during sleep. During the physical exam, certain physical indicators can help determine whether the patient is more likely to have sleep apnoea, such as enlarged tonsils, excessive weight, thick neck circumference, and a narrow throat.

The most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnoea is through a sleep study. During this study, the patient will stay overnight in a sleep clinic and their sleep will be monitored by a trained specialist. During the sleep study, factors like oxygen levels, breathing, heart rate, and brain waves will be assessed. The results of the sleep study can determine the severity of the condition and make it easier for a doctor to make recommendations for the best treatment plan.


There are three main subtypes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):

  1. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type of apnea is caused by a lack of signals from the brain to the muscles in the chest and diaphragm that control breathing. In this type of apnea, the airway remains open, but the patient doesn’t move enough air in and out of their lungs.
  2. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS): This type of apnea occurs when a person has both CSA and OSA. It usually happens when a person has a sleep disorder that causes them to stop breathing for a few seconds, followed by increased effort to breathe, accompanied by snoring.
  3. Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA): This type of apnea is caused by a combination of CSA and OSA. Patients with this type of apnea can experience periods of regular breathing, followed by short periods of time when they stop breathing, followed again by regular breathing.


The treatment options for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) vary depending on the severity of the disorder and the individual needs of the patient. Generally, OSA treatment options include lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and avoiding alcohol and large meals before bedtime; oral appliances and dental devices to adjust the position of the jaw and tongue, which can help keep the airway open during sleep; and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to help the patient breathe more easily during sleep. Surgery is another option for some patients, such as nasal and palate surgery to address structural issues that may interfere with breathing. Other treatments can involve cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy to reduce stress and anxiety that can contribute to OSA.


  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive body weight can increase the chance of having sleep apnea.
  2. Avoid the use of alcohol, sedatives, and other substances close to bedtime.
  3. Keep regular sleep habits. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  4. Avoid smoking.
  5. Exercise regularly.
  6. Avoid sleeping on your back as this can restrict air flow.
  7. Use extra pillows to elevate the upper body to open the air way.
  8. Use nasal decongestants or nasal strips to increase air flow.
  9. Wear a mouthpiece or oral appliance during sleep to keep the throat open.
  10. 0. Have a sleep study done to check for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Men are more likely to be diagnosed with OSA than women, and they tend to have more severe symptoms than women. Studies have also found that women generally present with OSA at a lower body mass index than men. Additionally, women tend to respond better to treatment and have a better clinical outcome than men. This is believed to be due to the fact that women are more likely to seek medical attention earlier due to their more severe symptoms, whereas men may ignore the warning signs until they become more severe. Another factor could be that the hormones in women have a protective effect that is not seen in men. Finally, lifestyle modifications such as exercise, diet and smoking cessation are more effective in women than in men.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA is caused by a narrowing of the upper airway which results in pauses in breathing during sleep. This can be caused by excess body fat, which can lead to an obstruction of the airway due to its size and shape. Excess body fat can also limit physical activity and lead to an increase in blood pressure, which can also worsen OSA symptoms. Nutrition can be used to help manage OSA by helping to reduce body fat and improve overall health. Eating a well balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins can help reduce body fat, improve physical activity, and reduce overall inflammation which can help improve OSA symptoms. Additionally, making sure to get adequate hydration is important because dehydration can lead to snoring and worsen OSA symptoms. Ultimately, nutrition can play an important role in managing OSA symptoms by helping to reduce body fat, improve physical activity levels, reduce inflammation, and increase hydration.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been found to be beneficial for those with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Regular physical activity can help to improve the symptoms of OSA by decreasing airway inflammation and congestion, improving cardiovascular fitness, and helping to maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that physical activity can reduce the number of apnoea events, decrease sleep fragmentation, reduce the severity of OSA symptoms, and even improve the oxygen level in the blood. Furthermore, it can help to reduce fatigue and increase alertness during the day. Regular physical activity can also help to improve overall quality of sleep and reduce stress levels. However, it is important to note that physical activity can worsen some of the symptoms of OSA if it is done too close to bedtime. As such, it is important to ensure that any physical activity is done several hours before bedtime in order to maximize the benefits.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424167/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352090
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/sleep-apnea-in-adults-beyond-the-basics
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/obstructive-sleep-apnea
  5. https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/sleep-apnoea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *