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What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea - and Do I Have it?

Are you having difficulty sleeping? Obstructive sleep apnea has various symptoms. Read more here on how you can get diagnosed in the comforts of your home.

Have you been waking up feeling like you have barely slept? Perhaps with a dry throat and mouth? Do you experience daytime sleepiness? Do you wake up throughout the night or have a morning report of loud snoring from your bed partner? If this is the case, obstructive sleep apnea may have crossed your radar as a possible cause of these symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is a highly treatable sleep disorder. However, diagnosing your sleep apnea is important before looking into treatment options. In this article, we will discuss what exactly obstructive sleep apnea is and how you can find out if you have been silent suffering.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Regarding sleep-related breathing disorders, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. While you are asleep, your throat muscles periodically relax and close your airway, causing you to frequently stop and start breathing. This stopping and starting of breath is what causes obstructive sleep apnea sufferers to gasp for air during their sleep, ruining the chances of deep and restorative sleep.

How does obstructive sleep apnea affect your life?

Symptoms among obstructive sleep apnea sufferers differ. However, it's safe to say that the effects of sleep apnea don't end with a bad night's sleep.

The common symptoms involved with obstructive sleep apnea include

  • Snoring (usually loud snoring)
  • Episodes of stopping and starting breathing
  • Gasping for air
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Waking up with a headache
  • Insomnia
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Concentration issues
  • General irritability

However, some other health concerns can occur from obstructive sleep apnea. These concerns include the following:

  • Mental health concerns — fatigue and irritability can quickly turn to moodiness and depression. A lack of sleep affects many areas of life, including your performance at day-to-day tasks, which can quickly add up and feel overwhelming.
  • Heart concerns and high blood pressure — the drops in oxygen levels that occur to sleep apnea sufferers through the night cause an increase in blood pressure. This makes the cardiovascular system work harder and increases the risk of high blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea may also contribute to a heightened risk of recurrent heart attacks, strokes and abnormal heart problems.
  • Diabetes — sleep apnea increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Liver complications - sleep apnea sufferers are more likely to have abnormal liver function.
  • Exhausted bed partners — the unsung sufferers of sleep apnea are the partners who cannot get to sleep as a result of the snoring, gasping and restlessness of their partner.

What are the different types of sleep apnea, and how do they differ?

There are three different types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea.

As we have already discussed, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common of the three. Obstructive sleep apnea causes your muscles to relax during sleep, closing your airway and causing pauses in breathing.

Central Sleep Apnea is a less common form of sleep apnea. The reason for central sleep apnea is the lack of proper signals from the brain to the muscles controlling breathing. Unlike other forms of sleep apnea, this type does not occur because of a blockage in the upper airway.

Complex Sleep Apnea is the latest form of sleep apnea to be acknowledged by health professionals. Complex sleep apnea combines OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) and CSA (central sleep apnea).

So while obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to the airway closing, central sleep apnea is caused by brain signals, and complex sleep apnea is a mix of the two. 

Can obstructive sleep apnea be cured?

There's currently no known ‘cure’ for sleep apnea. But the good news is that it's highly manageable, with mild cases treatable by mere lifestyle changes. Examples include losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing your alcohol intake. However, moderate to severe cases may call for a CPAP therapy, or in some cases, surgery.

What treatment will I need to undergo?

The most effective and commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). You breathe humidified air through your nose while sleeping, creating air pressure to keep your throat open. By opening up the upper airway, this treatment prevents sleep apnea-induced breathing pauses.

How do I get diagnosed with sleep apnea?

If you have read through this article and were able to tick off several of the symptoms that occur within your bedroom, it may be safe to bet on the fact that you have obstructive sleep apnea. However, a self-diagnosis may not be your best bet to get started with a treatment plan. The good news is you don't have to travel to a far-away sleep clinic to be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Instead, you can simply take an at-home sleep test.

Sleep apnea chin test - NSW CPAPadd to cart button - NSW CPAP

At-Home Sleep Test

Sleep apnea can be diagnosed at home with an effective and straightforward sleep test. Sound complicated? It's not - no doctor's recommendation is required, and the device has no wires or uncomfortable equipment; it simply rests on your fingertip or chin. In addition to being TGA-approved, the results will be reviewed by a qualified Sleep & Respiratory Physician. Are you ready to get started? You can order your at-home test here.

at home sleep test with index finger - NSW CPAP

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In addition to your test kit, you'll receive a unique activation code to access the companion app. (An app purpose-built to track your results). The app shows you how to use the sensor and record your sleep. An expert team member will send you a sleep report within three to five days of completing the test. Last but not least, you can schedule a phone consultation with a sleep coach to discuss your results and decide what the next step is. This phone call is included in the cost of the test.

If you are looking to take the next step for your sleep but would prefer to speak with somebody in person, get in contact with our friendly team of sleep experts by calling them on 1300 414 190 or popping into one of our stores and speaking to a team member in person.

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