Obstructive Sleep Apnea
According to the National Sleep Foundation, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The word "apnea" means "without breath." Apnea is defined as a cessation of breath that lasts at least 10 seconds.
OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat are not able to keep the throat open, despite efforts to breathe. This causes blockages in the airway and breathing interruptions (apnea). Obstructive apnea can result in two problems: fragmented sleep and lowered levels of oxygen in the blood. The combination of sleep disturbance and oxygen starvation can result in multiple problems, including automobile accidents, hypertension, heart disease, and mood and memory problems.
OSA affects approximately 20 million Americans. A minimum of 2 to 3 percent of children are affected by OSA, with 10 to 20 percent of habitually snoring children being affected by it. Risk factors for OSA include having a small upper airway (or large tongue, tonsils or uvula); being overweight; having a recessed chin, small jaw or large overbite; a large neck size (17 inches or greater for men, 16 inches or greater for women); smoking and alcohol use; being age 40 or older; and being African-American, Pacific-Islander or Hispanic. OSA seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic link.