Obstructive sleep apnea – or OSA – is severely restricted airflow that pauses breathing during sleep, sometimes several times a night. It’s one of a spectrum of adult and pediatric sleep-disordered breathing conditions caused by narrowing or blockage in the upper respiratory tract (mouth, nose, and throat).
The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe.
Sleep-disordered breathing progresses over time — from snoring with little to no airway restriction, to obstructive sleep apnea with complete collapsed airways. Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, where the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep.
For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to a variety of potentially serious conditions, including:
More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. OSA occurs in all age groups and both sexes, but some factors increase the risk including:
- Being age 40 or older
- Being overweight
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or larger in a man, or 16 inches or larger in a woman)
- Having a large tongue, tonsils, or uvula (the flap of skin that hangs down in the back of your throat
- Having a recessed (set back from the rest of the face) chin
- Having a small upper airway
- Small jaw or a large overbite (front teeth that rest far in front of the bottom teeth, when your mouth is closed naturally)
- Smoking or drinking alcohol
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea depends on the cause, which may happen at different levels in the upper airways at the same. Causes of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Chronic nasal allergies
- Deviated septum (the bone and cartilage that separates the nostrils)
- Enlarged tonsils, adenoids (glands in the roof of the mouth), uvula (the tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat), or tongue
- Excessive tissue in the airways
- Facial or skull abnormalities related to the jaw, palate, or head shape
- Fat in the airways due to obesity or extra weight
- Small airways
You may have a medical condition if a loved one says you snore loudly, make gasping or choking noises, or are restless during sleep. If you experience these symptoms, visit with one of the University of Miami Health System's sleep medicine specialists today.
Why Choose UHealth?
State-of-the-art testing and expert diagnosis for children and adults. Our sleep medicine specialists perform sleep endoscopies and a variety of sleep studies. Sleep studies take place 24/7 in our comfortable, state-of-the-art facilities with an expert staff. This means we get accurate results, so we can provide the best treatment possible for your specific condition.
Innovative non-surgical and surgical therapies for obstructive sleep apnea. We offer comprehensive therapies to treat obstructive sleep apnea, including myofunctional therapy, minimally invasive upper airway stimulation, and endoscopic sinus surgery. You have access to a variety of treatments all in one place.
Experienced surgical team. If your obstructive sleep apnea requires surgery, you can be confident in our board-certified pediatric and adult sleep medicine surgeons. You receive the right expertise and the right procedures for your condition. We also combine procedures to make life easier for you.
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Approximately 18 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and 10 million are undiagnosed. More than 50% of Americans over the age of 65 have a sleep problem. Those with untreated OSA face a risk of heart attack or stroke that is up to four times greater than those who are not afflicted.