Sleep Disorder: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

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Consequences of Airway Obstruction

The reduction in blood oxygen levels in the blood circulation can be dangerous for both the heart and the brain. Both these organs require much more oxygen for their normal function than other organs. Obstruction is like strangulating a person repeatedly and depriving them of their constant oxygen supply to the body.


This repeated obstruction in obstructive sleep apnea causes what is called an autonomic stress.

The autonomic nervous system of the body consists of two systems called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. These are systems that we are not normally aware of and these regulate the key functions of the body including the activity of the heart muscle, endocrinal glands, digestion, and the smooth muscle tone (e.g., the muscles of the walls of the blood vessels).

Lack of oxygen plays havoc with the autonomic system and its functioning. The first organs to suffer include the heart and the brain.

a)Consequence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea on the Heart

Irregularity in the Rhythm of the heart called Cardiac dysrhythmias can be observed in OSA patients

Cyclical variations in blood pressure changes can elevate both pressure in the lung vessels (called pulmonary hypertension) and also increase the normal blood pressure of the rest of the body (called systemic hypertension).

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See this recent publication that indicates that obstructive Sleep Apnea - Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). We hypothesized that OSA is independently related to the risk of CAD or death from any cause. In this observational cohort study, patients referred for OSA underwent polysomnography, and subsequent CAD events (myocardial infarction, coronary angiography or bypass graft surgery) or death were recorded. Patients were divided into exposure (AHI 15) and comparison groups (AHI Increased Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Death, Shah NA et al New Haven, CT

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