Obstructive Sleep Apnea 101

Obstructive Sleep Apnea 101

Sleep is essential for an energetic, fulfilling life. It regulates brain function, impacts mood, and is when the body heals. It is critical for a healthy mind and body. Sleep deprivation negativity impacts metabolism, fat storage, focus, energy, and hormonal balance. Over time, poor sleep can cause weakened immune function, mood disorders, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and shorter life expectancy. Consistent, high-quality sleep is vital to cognition, optimal energy levels, overall functional health.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), also known as, sleep apnea, is a serious, potentially life-threatening medical condition. It is a disorder that causes poor quality sleep due to uncontrollable pauses in breathing, taking shallow breaths during sleep, and suddenly waking up startled. Sleep apnea is alarming and more than just heavy snoring. An individual with sleep apnea might repeatedly stop breathing up to 100 times an hour during the night without even being aware. These breaks in normal breathing are detrimental and lead to less oxygen flow to the brain, kidneys, heart, and other major organs. Sleep apnea triggers individuals to wake up suddenly and gasp for air to reopen the airways. It can cause snoring, choking noises, excessive daytime sleepiness, and anxiety during the day. Over time, sleep apnea increases the risk for chronic disease. It can be prevented and treated with lifestyle modifications once the root cause is discovered.


Obstructive sleep apnea is a common yet severe problem that affects individuals worldwide. It can impact all ages, genders, races, and body types. 22 million Americans have moderate to severe sleep apnea. Over 100 million people worldwide suffer from it. Some individuals are unaware that the have it. Sleep apnea increases the risk tenfold for chronic disease development and premature death.


Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by recurrent collapse or obstruction of the pharyngeal airway during sleep leading to hypoxia, breathing disruptions, and sleep disturbances. These disruptions in breathing result in too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen in the blood. This leads to constant sympathetic nervous system activation. The stress response goes into overdrive resulting in fragmented sleep and fluctuations between wakefulness and deep sleep. Apneic events can occur more than 100 times per hour and they typically last 20-40 seconds.

Risk Factors

There are quite a few risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. It is important to realize that sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of sex, age, or body type. Excessive use of alcohol or sedatives, chronic nasal congestion, cigarette use, being overweight, a wide neck circumference, and a narrowed airway are all risk factors. Family history and being the male sex are also ones. There is an increase in sleep apnea in individuals who have type 2 diabetes and other metabolic or endocrine disorders.

Signs + Symptoms

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and an extreme form of sleep deprivation. It causes individuals to wake up several times throughout the night leading to the inability to sleep and breathe. This causes oxygen deprivation and an unawareness that this is even happening. Common signs and symptoms for sleep apnea include excessively loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, waking up abruptly choking or unable to breathe, pauses in breathing, night sweating, frequent urination, headaches, and depression, irritability and anxiety during the day. Normal sleep and overall quality of life is usually disrupted. Over time, sleep apnea can lead to complications, such as, insulin resistance, hypertension, the inability to lose weight, memory loss, chronic fatigue, hunger, sugar cravings, attention deficit, and cardiovascular disease.

Dx + Testing

The gold standard test to confirm whether or not an individual has sleep apnea is a polysomnogram, a sleep study test. The exam consists of multiple tests that record and transmit physical activities during sleep. Breathing and oxygen levels are continually assessed throughout the night. Usually patients present to the office with complaints of excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring that wakes up their partner, and waking up choking. High blood pressure and blood sugar imbalance may be found upon assessment as well. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by your primary healthcare provider.

OSA Management

Generally, Obstructive sleep apnea can be prevented and treated with weight loss. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is widely used. It provides continuous oxygen throughout the night via a face mask. In less severe cases, a mouth guard can be used to alleviate symptoms, and in more severe cases, surgery may be warranted. Individuals who are overweight or obese should aim lose 10% of their body weight at first to see if symptoms subside.

OSA Prevention

A key way to prevent obstructive sleep apnea is to be at a healthy weight. Eating a diet rich in fiber promotes optimal digestion and blood sugar regulation. Consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats and proteins ensures ample nutrient intake, satiety, and reduced sugar cravings. Choose foods like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, cafe- free eggs, and wild caught fish and salmon. Moderate to intense exercise for at least 30 minutes a day is also important in sleep apnea prevention. If unable to set a half hour to an hour aside, try out “exercise snacks”- quick 10 minute workouts 3 times a day.

Keys to Success

The most important action when it comes to the sleep apnea diagnosis is wear the CPAP device every night as prescribed. Breathing and oxygenation are essential to life and being alive. Wearing the CPAP mask at night ensures high quality, well-oxygenated sleep. The brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs need oxygen to function properly. Chronic oxygen deprivation night after night, week after week, month after month can lead to serious complications, even premature death.

Side sleeping decreases snoring and the collapse of the airway. Maintaining a healthy weight and neck circumference helps reduce abnormal relaxation of throat muscles. Exercise boosts insulin sensitivity, promotes a healthy weight, and enhances metabolic flexibility. Wearing the CPAP device, weight control, exercise, and side sleeping are keys to success when it comes to sleep apnea.

OSA + Self-awareness

Sleep apnea is a deprivation of oxygen during sleep. It should not be taken lightly or ignored. Extremely loud snoring and waking up choking is simply not normal. Notify your primary healthcare provider if you wake up gasping for air or choking right away. Record and track your sleep via a journal or smart watch. Reflect on your sleep and your energy level throughout the day. Ask yourself what can you do to better your sleep. Exercise daily. It promotes restful, deep sleep and hormonal balance. Practice mindfulness and lay in a proper sleeping position, typically on the side with the head of the bed slightly elevated. Ensure the room is dark and cool and have a nighttime ritual to help induce sleep. Most importantly, surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you in your health journey.

Final Thoughts

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by controllable pauses in breathing and suddenly waking up startled due to abnormal relaxation of muscles in the throat. It is a literal deprivation of oxygen and cessation of breathing during sleep that can happen over 100 times an hour. Individuals are common times unaware that they even have it. The classic signs are excessive snoring and pauses in breathing. Sleep apnea is treatable and preventable with weight loss, exercise, healthy diet, and wearing a mouth guard during sleep. It is of the upmost importance to wear the CPAP mask every night as prescribed. Be aware and take charge of your own health.

Thank you for reading this post.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.