Human Physiology – Biology 60
The dictionary defines sleep as “The natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored” (Webster’s 638) If one is waking up on an average of 300 times per night, the chances of complete body restoration are minimal. The Greek word apnea literally means “without breath”. An estimated 30 million Americans stop breathing during their sleep sometimes 30-40 times per hour and often for a minute, or longer each time. Of these, about 20 million are in the early stages, and about 10 million have progressed to a level of severity that requires treatment. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, about 38,000 Americans die of sleep disorder related problems each year (Internal Medicine Alert 98). Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a potentially deadly sleep disorder, where by the uvula and soft pallet collapse on the back wall of the upper airway causing the cessation of breathing and a drop in blood pressure. The hearts need for oxygen increases during apneic episodes, when someone stops breathing carbon dioxide slowly builds up in the bloodstream and the oxygen level quickly decreases (Melville 52). Eventually a signal from the brain triggers the body to partially wake up, this action causes blood pressure to increase, breathing, then resumes, and the cycle begins again. (See figure 1)1 Once the breathing resumes the oxygen level then begins to rise, the heart starts pumping much faster than normal, raising the blood pressure to dangerously high levels. These occurrences night after night increase the risk of damaging small organs and can trigger small strokes.
There are three types of apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common, caused when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes. The second type is Central Sleep Apnea; instead of the airway collapsing the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath. The third type is Mixed Apnea and as the name suggests it is a combination of OSA and Central Apnea. This paper will focus on OSA, the history, risks, diagnosis, and treatment.
OSA is a vastly undiagnosed and untreated disorder and is becoming one of America’s most serious general health issues. As more research is conducted the standard risk factors being used by practitioners to diagnose and treat OSA are becoming obsolete. The factors used for diagnosing OSA were limited to overweight males in there 40’s; it is now known that OSA affects men and women of any age and children. The first sleep disorder was identified in 1956. The disorder was named “Pickwickian Syndrome” patients that suffered from this syndrome were all overweight and experiencing daytime sleepiness. The name Pickwickian comes from a Charles Dickens play “Pickwick Papers” one of the characters-Joe the fat boy-was so sleepy he...