OSA Fast Facts

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disease of the upper airway, predominantly the soft palate.

It is associated with interrupted breathing and relaxed muscle tone during sleep that results in airway obstruction and may last as long as 1 minute.

During the day, the airway is kept open via muscle control since there is no bone or cartilage to keep the airway open, which is why during sleep the airway can become closed, leading to interrupted breathing.

This breathing interruption results in decreased blood oxygen.

Once blood oxygen decreases to a certain point, the body reacts by lightening sleep and restoring muscle control.

This can lead to gasping or choking until blood oxygen levels return to normal.

All this can affect sleep quality as well as put a strain on the heart, as the heart works harder to maintain blood oxygen.

The number of interruptions varies from person to person and can be as many as a few times an hour to greater than a 100 events per hour.

The drop in oxygen levels can be dramatic or mild and a person’s response can vary depending on associated diseases, age, and desensitization due to prolonged untreated OSA.

The results of OSA can often be associated with stroke, heart attack, arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation), congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, GERD, and depression.

Additionally:

  • It is estimated today that 1 in 5 Canadian adults suffer from OSA. This equals to about 6.5 million individuals, with 1/3 being moderate to severe cases.
  • Men are 2-3 times more likely to be affected.
  • OSA is thought to be linked to many disasters including: the Hinton, Alberta train derailment, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, the Three Mile Island accident, and the Union Carbide chemical accident.
  • OSA was first reported in medical literature in 1965, with treatment for severe cases being Tracheostomy.
  • The first CPAP machine was introduced by Colin Sullivan in 1981.
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