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Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Do you feel extremely sleepy during the day?
Do you snore very loudly during the night as you sleep?
If your answer is yes, then the chances are very high that you may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea yet you are not aware.

Do you know?
According to a recent sleep study, nearly a third of Singaporeans suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea (OSA), with significant cases being undiagnosed.

So, what exactly is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Commonly referred to as OSA, obstructive sleep apnea is currently the most common sleep-related inhalation disorder. The affected patients usually stop breathing for a short duration while sleeping and this will disrupt the quality of your sleep.

Regular breathing stops when your air passage, also known as the pharynx, are either narrowed or closed, resulting in the reduction of the amount of oxygen supplied to your body system. This can happen several times during the night. The reduced oxygen levels send signals to your brain, and this, in turn, will force you to wake up transiently to initiate a normal breathing process.

And because of the disrupted night sleep, OSA patients usually tend to feel sleepy in the day. This implies that they will likely have a rough time concentrating during the day as well. As we mentioned earlier, OSA is an underdiagnosed condition. Unfortunately, if left untreated for an extended period, it can potentially result in life-threatening complications later in your lifetime.

So, how prevalent is sleep apnea in Singapore?

As previously mentioned, a recent local sleep study indicated that one-third of Singaporeans suffer from moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. However, this might not present real information since most OSA cases are still underdiagnosed. In simple terms, the figures may be higher than this!

What’s more, sleep apnea symptoms usually manifest during the night, and this means that only the sleeping partners can observe them, resulting in reduced self-awareness among the patients.

OSA are more common in men with a ratio ranging anywhere from 3:1 to 5:1 in the general population.

In the group of patients with other clinical conditions, the ratio can reach as high as 10:1!

So, who should be concerned?

Studies have shown that advancement in age, increased weight among males are at a relatively greater risk of developing OSA. What’s more, those having pre-existing airway obstruction symptoms such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids are more likely to experience OSA.

So, what are some of the most common OSA symptoms?

If you display any of the below symptoms, you are likely to be having sleep obstructive apnea:

  • Restless night sleep
  • Nocturia
  • Snoring
  • Experiencing episodes of obstructed breathing
  • Episodes of chocking while you sleep

Daytime symptoms include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Uncontrollable daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Reduced levels of concentration
  • Unsatisfying sleep

So, how is OSA diagnosed?

The evaluation, as well as the diagnosis of OSA, is usually conducted through a planned and monitored sleep study based on your comfort and convenience level. In this regard, there are two proven sleep evaluation techniques including:

In-laboratory polysomnography: Commonly known as PSG, this is usually done during in-patient visits and benefits from the close supervision and monitoring by the medical professionals. However, one disadvantage of this technique is that it results in relatively higher personnel and financial expenditures.

Home sleep study: This is done in the comfort of your home, allowing you to enjoy the comfort that comes with the natural environment. Some of the proven benefits of home sleep study include increased accuracy, less resource-intensive, and faster and increased efficiency levels.

So, how can I manage my obstructive sleep apnea condition?

There are several sustainable ways through which OSA can be managed and successfully treated. It is imperative to note that most of these techniques work by effectively reducing sleep disturbances and their associated effects. To be more precise, the treatments will clear the airway to ensure it remains open even as you enjoy your sleep. The treatment option chosen should not only support prolonged use but should also be tailored toward your individual preference and lifestyle.

Lifestyle changes that have been proven to be effective at combating OSA include:
Weight loss regimen: Weight reduction mechanisms through diet changes and routine workout can potentially prove beneficial to OSA patients with weight management problems. You can prepare your body for a fulfilling night’s sleep by engaging in moderate exercise during the day. You can also achieve this by mentally putting your mind into a sleeping mode.

Stay away from alcohol: If you didn’t know, alcohol has the potential to aggravate OSA and sleepiness symptoms.

Mind your sleeping behavior: To enhance your sleep during the night, ensure your bedroom is free from distractions such as light, noise among other things. Also, avoid the temptation of daytime naps as well as caffeinated drinks.

Take note of your sleeping position: Side sleepers can slightly benefit in this regard.

Medical techniques:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This is the OSA gold standard treatment and helps deliver constant airflow to help maintain airway patency. CPAP has been shown to significantly reduce apnea-hypopnea index, a marker of OSA severity, enhance cognitive function, improve blood pressure and sleepiness. CPAP is also a highly versatile treatment option and can be customized to meet the necessary changes in your sleep breathing pattern.

The use of oral appliances: Devices such as Mandibular advancement splints can be an alternative for patients suffering from mild to moderate OSA. It has been shown to improve OSA symptoms and reduce AHI, albeit with relatively less efficiency.

Surgical treatment: Surgical treatment can be a great option for patients who don’t want to undergo nonsurgical treatment procedures such as oral devices and dental devices.

So, why should I be concerned about my OSA condition?

If you are currently suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at risk of many health problems including:

Cardiovascular mobility:

Research has shown that untreated moderate to severe OSA can potentially develop into heart-related conditions such as heart failure, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, and high blood pressure.
Accidents: Because of reduced concentration during the day, OSA patients are increasingly likely to be involved in road traffic accidents.

Impact on your wellbeing:

OSA patients will always suffer from reduced concentration levels and increased daytime sleepiness and all these will impact their daily activities. To be more precise, it can increase the risk of errors at work.


Studies have also shown that the risk of diabetes and its associated complications are relatively higher among OSA patients.

Reduced sexual function:

Research has revealed that OSA patients, both males, and females, are also likely to experience sexual dysfunction problems.
Increase in mortality

OSA can be a serious health condition that will not only impact your overall well-being but can also increase your risk of developing other life-threatening conditions.

Speak to us today if you suspect that you might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea!

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