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Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

A sleep disorder that is marked by pauses in breathing of 10 seconds or more during sleep, and causes unrestful sleep. Symptoms include loud or abnormal snoring, daytime sleepiness, irritability, and depression.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (pronounced AP-nee-ah), also called OSA, is a chronic (ongoing) disorder. People with OSA stop or "pause" their breathing or have shallow breathing when they sleep.

Almost everyone has brief times when they stop breathing while they sleep. People with OSA:

  • Pause their breathing or flow of air (called "hypoapnea") more often than normal.
  • May start breathing again with a loud snort or choking sound.
  • Have breathing pauses five or more times an hour; sometimes as often as once or twice each minute.

OSA can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on:

  • How many times a person pauses their breathing or has lower airflow per hour.
  • How low a person's oxygen level in their blood drops during those times.
  • The amount of sleepiness a person feels during the day...

Read more about Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Lifestyle modification strategies for managing obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea happens when breathing is either stopped or reduced during sleep because of a narrowing or blockage of the upper airway (passage to the lungs). It causes loud snoring and occasional apnoea (stopping breathing). It can lead to daytime sleepiness and may cause, hypertension, stroke and road accidents. Lifestyle modification, especially weight loss, sleep hygiene and exercise, are often recommended. These could help by relieving pressure on the upper airway, and increasing muscle tone in the airway. However, the review found no trials to assess the effects of these strategies, and more research is needed.

Does treating obstructive sleep apnoea in children who also have chronic cough improve their cough?

Sleep apnoea (a condition where breathing stops for short spells during sleep) and chronic cough in children are significant medical problems and cause a significant burden of distress to parents. Interventions for sleep apnoea are associated with risks of morbidity and mortality, in addition to substantial costs. This review aimed to examine the effect of the treatment of sleep apnoea in children with chronic cough, however no randomised controlled trials were found. Currently there is no evidence to support the use of interventions for sleep apnoea in children with chronic cough and a randomised controlled trial is needed.

Oral appliances and functional orthopaedic appliances for obstructive sleep apnoea in children

Treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) in children appears to be possible with oral appliances or functional orthopaedic appliances. However this is only based on data from one small study.

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Summaries for consumers

Lifestyle modification strategies for managing obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea happens when breathing is either stopped or reduced during sleep because of a narrowing or blockage of the upper airway (passage to the lungs). It causes loud snoring and occasional apnoea (stopping breathing). It can lead to daytime sleepiness and may cause, hypertension, stroke and road accidents. Lifestyle modification, especially weight loss, sleep hygiene and exercise, are often recommended. These could help by relieving pressure on the upper airway, and increasing muscle tone in the airway. However, the review found no trials to assess the effects of these strategies, and more research is needed.

Does treating obstructive sleep apnoea in children who also have chronic cough improve their cough?

Sleep apnoea (a condition where breathing stops for short spells during sleep) and chronic cough in children are significant medical problems and cause a significant burden of distress to parents. Interventions for sleep apnoea are associated with risks of morbidity and mortality, in addition to substantial costs. This review aimed to examine the effect of the treatment of sleep apnoea in children with chronic cough, however no randomised controlled trials were found. Currently there is no evidence to support the use of interventions for sleep apnoea in children with chronic cough and a randomised controlled trial is needed.

Oral appliances and functional orthopaedic appliances for obstructive sleep apnoea in children

Treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) in children appears to be possible with oral appliances or functional orthopaedic appliances. However this is only based on data from one small study.

See all (20)

More about Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Photo of an adult

Also called: Obstructive sleep apnoea, Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome

Other terms to know:
Chronic, Sleep

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