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Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by complete or partial obstruction of the airway leading to decreases or pauses in breathing during sleep.


When you sleep, the muscles are more relaxed. This includes the muscles that help keep the throat open. Normally, your throat remains open during sleep. However, individuals with narrow throats experience airway collapse during sleep due to muscle relaxation. This results in respiratory pauses called obstructive sleep apnea.


Loud snoring is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when air travels through a constricted airway, causing the surrounding tissues to vibrate. It is important to note that not all snorers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Causes of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is caused by the tongue and throat muscles relaxation, blocking the passage of air into the airways. The patient tries to breathe but the airways are obstructed, which is why it is called obstructive sleep apnea. Elderly people are the most concerned by these disorders because the throat muscles are less toned. Being overweight is also associated with sleep apnea, as the excess fat in the neck reduces the size of the airways.

What are the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

The most common symptoms are daytime fatigue or drowsiness.

However, there are many other symptoms such as:

  • irritability
  • morning headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • night sweats
  • decreased libido
  • excessive perspiration during sleep
  • dry mouth or sore throat, etc

Often, patients often feel the need to take naps during the day. However, these naps usually have little effect, as they are also fragmented due to repeated breathing breaks.

Obstructive sleep apnea: What are the risk factors?

Obesity is not the only cause of obstructive sleep apnea. There are many other factors such as:

  • facial and neck morphology
  • nasal obstruction
  • respiratory allergies
  • age, gender
  • family genetics
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

In addition, alcohol and smoking can increase your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

If I snore, does that mean I have obstructive sleep apnea?

About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers. However, not all of them have sleep apnea.


A spouse will often witness their partner’s signs of sleep apnea. These signs include snoring, respiratory pauses and more. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, we recommend you talk to your physician about it.

Is obstructive sleep apnea dangerous to health?

Breathing stops during sleep lead to many micro-awakenings moments throughout the night, fragmenting sleep. The constant decrease in blood oxygen leads to chronic hypoxia, which can trigger high blood pressure, heart disease and uncontrolled diabetes.

Sleep apnea: when to consult?

People suffering from sleep apnea do not always know. Most of the time, the spouse is often to notice the signs of snoring and sleep apnea. It is advisable to consult a specialist when:

  • Snoring disrupts your sleep and your partner’s sleep.
  • Snoring often wakes you up at night.
  • Your spouse notices you’re having respiratory problems…
  • You feel tired in the morning and sleepy during the day

The Epworth Sleepiness Test measures how drowsy you are during the day.


A complete examination called polysomnography will be performed at our clinic. This test analyzes the different phases of sleep and measures several indicators to detect sleep apnea and assess its severity.

It is necessary to spend one night in the clinic. Electrodes are placed on the body in order to observe physical activity such as brain or muscle activity, the oxygen level in the blood and the different phases of sleep.

Sleep apnea: can it be avoided?

Obesity is the main risk factor causing sleep apnea. Keeping a healthy weight helps to stay healthy and prevent the risk of sleep apnea.

What to do to limit sleep apnea aggravation?

If you suffer from sleep apnea simple measures can be put in place to improve the quality of your sleep. These measures can help reduce or even eliminate sleep apnea in mild cases:

– Losing weight
If you are overweight, losing a few pounds is enough to improve the quality of your sleep.

– Sleeping on your side
Sleeping on your side helps to clear the airway and reduce sleep apnea.

– Raising your pillow
You can raise your head a few centimeters so that your neck and torso are slightly elevated to clear the airways.

Sleep apnea: what treatments?

There are no drug treatments for sleep apnea yet. However, other very effective solutions exist:

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation)

CPAP is a device that continuously sends air through a tube and a mask to be worn at night. There are different types of CPAP models, each model helps maintain a sufficient level of air in the airways to prevent sleep apnea.


Oral appliances

The mandibular advancement orthosis is a gutter to be worn at night. It keeps the lower jaw and the tongue forward which facilitates the passage of air. Most of the time, mandibular advancement orthosis are indicated for people with mild to moderate apnea.

Surgery for treating sleep apnea

If CPAP and mandibular advancement orthosis does not work or not well tolerated by the patient. Surgical intervention may be considered among them:

  • Correction of a nasal septal deviation (septoplasty)
  • Removal of vegetation
  • Tonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils)
  • Pharyngotomy (laser intervention on the palate)
  • Somnoplasty (intervention on the palate by radiofrequency)

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