February 25, 2011


COLUMBIA, Tenn.—Failure to get a good night’s sleep can cause more than sleepiness; it can have a serious impact on a person’s health. Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) informs the public about health risks related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA is a common sleep disorder that occurs when tissues in the throat block a person’s airway as they sleep. The disorder can cause the person to quit breathing multiple times during the course of one night.

“When you have OSA, your breathing is continually interrupted as you sleep. This not only disrupts your sleep cycle, but can also cause changes in your blood pressure and oxygen levels,” says Ted Bradshaw, sleep center coordinator at MRMC. “High blood pressure, stroke and heart disease are among the health risks for people who suffer from OSA.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, OSA can cause hypertension by increasing a person’s blood pressure. OSA can increase a person’s risk for heart attack and other forms of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Because blood flow to the brain is interrupted when a person with OSA stops breathing, the disorder can also increase the risk for stroke.

Men are twice as likely to suffer from OSA as women; however, the disorder becomes more prevalent for women after menopause. Children with large tonsils or adenoids may also suffer from OSA. Warning signs of OSA include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking sounds while sleeping
  • Interruptions in breathing during sleep
  • Sleepiness during the daytime

Simple lifestyle changes may help control mild to moderate cases of OSA. Bradshaw recommends losing weight, quitting smoking and not consuming alcohol or sedatives right before bedtime, which can cause the tissues of the throat to sag and further restrict breathing.

“Almost everyone experiences a sleepless night every now and then, but if you frequently have trouble sleeping or experience the warning signs of OSA, see your physician,” said Bradshaw. “Identifying and treating a sleep disorder can help to prevent more serious health implications in the future.”