OSA is another disorder that degrades sleep quality and leads to impairment in daytime cognitive function. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to frequent interruptions of breathing caused by blockage of the upper airway. Respiratory interruptions result in transient lowering of blood oxygen levels, causing reflexive partial awakening in order to reestablish respiration.
In people with significant OSA, these disruptions can occur hundreds of times throughout the night and result in fragmentation of normal brain electrical activity and sleep architecture. OSA is usually caused by changes in airway anatomy, frequently associated with weight gain. Loud snoring and occasional gasping are near universal.
There are several treatments for OSA. Weight loss can eliminate the disorder. Some patients respond well to inhalers, which can open breathing passages. When these measures are not effective, doctors often recommend use of a c-pap (continuous positive airway pressure) device to keep the airways open during sleep. Although c-pap is an unequivocally effective treatment for OSA, many patients have difficulty tolerating the face mask, which is part of the device. An increasingly popular treatment alternative is upper airway laser surgery, which reshapes the tissues of the breathing passages. However, because surgery is less effective and much more invasive, an unstinting attempt at c-pap should precede surgical intervention.
People with effectively treated OSA consistently describe a rediscovered sense of rejuvenation, awakening refreshed and energized in a way they didn't believe was possible. They are less prone to depression and anxiety; although findings have been mixed, some studies report that cognitive function and memory performance are also improved.
Was this article helpful?