Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition described by recurrent episodes of complete sleep hindrance of the upper air flow while sleeping. It generally occurs when the blood oxygen saturation is very low and is a severe disorder that can cause breathing to continuously stop and start while sleeping.

sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea develops when the muscles that control the airway relax, narrowing the throat. This makes breathing to get disturbed for 10 seconds or more when the muscles are relaxed. The oxygen level drops and carbon dioxide builds-up. This may awaken you in the middle of sleep for a second to reopen the airway, but you might not be aware of it. This action is repeated many times in an hour where you may be snoring, choking or gasping.

Obesity, tonsils, endocrine disorders, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, nasal congestion, asthma and heart problems are the causative factors that may the block throat and lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Also Read: How smoking damages the lungs


Excessive day time sleepiness


Episodes of stopped breathing during sleep

Sudden awakening associated with gasping


Lack of concentration

Disturbed mood, depression and irritability

Uncontrolled blood pressure or hypertension

Night sweating

Decreases libido

Seek Immediate Medical Help If You Experience The Following Symptoms:

Snoring very loudly that may disturb your sleep or partners

Waking up in the middle of the night gasping or choking

Irregular breaks in breathing pattern while sleeping

Difficulty waking in the morning

Acid Reflux

Daytime fatigue and drowsiness may make you fall asleep while working, driving or watching mobile or television. Also Read: Experiencing Fatigue, Breathlessness? Could Be Iron Deficiency

Diagnosis And Treatment


The doctor may generally diagnose the patients based on the signs and symptoms, complete physical examination and tests. The doctor may also refer to a sleep specialist for additional evaluation. Polysomnography and home sleep apnea tests are recommended by a sleep specialist to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.


Lifestyle modification is a vital part of treating patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea which includes:

Lose weight if you are obese or overweight

Regular workouts

Quit smoking

Limit alcohol intake and avoid drinking alcohol two hours before the bed-time

Use of nasal decongestant or allergic sprays

Sleep on the side or the stomach rather than on your back

Stay away from sedative drugs like sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs.

If preventive measures do not help to treat sleep apnea, then the doctor may recommend the use of certain devices to open the blocked airways. Surgery is usually recommended for people with extra tissues that block the airflow through the nose or throat.

Generally, for an individual with the deviated nasal septum, swollen tonsils and adenoids, surgery is the mode of treatment.