What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020
  • Author: Himanshu Wickramasinghe, MD, MBBS; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Answer

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—also referred to as obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea—is a sleep disorder that involves cessation or significant decrease in airflow in the presence of breathing effort. It is the most common type of sleep-disordered breathing and is characterized by recurrent episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep. [1] These episodes are associated with recurrent oxyhemoglobin desaturations and arousals from sleep.

OSA that is associated with excessive daytime sleepiness is commonly called obstructive sleep apnea syndrome—also referred to as obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome.

The image below illustrates the sleep-related disordered breathing continuum ranging from simple snoring to OSA.

Sleep-related disordered breathing continuum rangi Sleep-related disordered breathing continuum ranging from simple snoring to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) occupies an intermediate position between these extremes. Note areas of overlap among the conditions.

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