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Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is a common sleep disorder affecting tens of millions of Americans. It affects the ability to breathe normally during sleep. See the video above for an example of an apnea.

OSA has a number of potential causes, including obesity, soft tissues, or enlarged palate, tongue, tonsils, or adenoids. Any of these can cause the upper airway to obstruct during sleep. These obstructions in the upper airway lead to a decrease in airflow, causing snoring, hypopneas, and apneas. 

Upper airway obstructions of any kind can decrease the amount of oxygen going to the brain, heart, and other vital organs. OSA has been shown to lead to heart diseasehypertensionstrokedementiaerectile dysfunctioncancerdiabetesmemory lossweight gaindaytime sleepiness, and premature death. Daytime sleepiness can lead to poor job performance and even traffic accidents.

The most common and preferred treatment for OSA is Positive Airway Pressure (PAP). PAP treatment involves breathing room air at a higher pressure through a mask that covers the nose and/or mouth. The air pressure works like a mechanical splint to hold the airway open during sleep, allowing the patient to breathe normally and stay asleep. Other treatments for OSA include dental appliances, weight loss, and surgeries.

Sleep Apnea and Stroke

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has been shown to be one of many potential causal factors of stroke.  Click below for a journal article from the American Academy of Neurology.  As we read through this article, a few statistics jumped out as us: namely, that sleep apnea affects up to 20% of the general population, and the prevalence of sleep apnea in stroke patients is as high as 50-70%.  They also note that quick diagnosis and treatment of OSA after stroke tends to result in a quicker recovery.  Click below to read.