Sleep Disorder : An Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Disorder Summary

Symptoms Overview

A sleeping disorder that will be discussed in this paper is obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition that manifests in shallow or absent breathing during sleep. In some people, this condition may repeatedly occur several times per night. Mainly, this happens due to some obstruction blocking airflows of the upper airway. Most common symptoms include daytime fatigue, dry mouth or a sore throat after waking up, headaches, depression, night sweats, snoring, and some others (“Obstructive sleep apnea explained,” 2017).


As stated by Garvey, Pengo, Drakatos, and Kent (2015), “when defined as repetitive upper airway obstruction during sleep, OSA is a very common disorder” (p. 920). The condition’s severity is measured according to the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). This index is calculated by summing complete (apneas) and incomplete (hypopneas) events of obstruction per hour. Men and women aged 30 to 60 years old have 24% and 9% of prevalence respectively. The condition is met more often in obese and older people as well as in ethnic minorities.


The most common causes of OSA in adults are excessive body weight, obesity (associated with mouth and soft throat tissue). The soft tissue may block air flows because the muscles in the throat and tongue are relaxed more than they are in the daytime. There are also a lot of other factors that are commonly associated with OSA.

Common Misconceptions

There are five common OSA misconceptions. The first of them suggests that OSA is not a serious threat to an organism and, therefore, is not dangerous. It is true that OSA cannot result in death directly. However, OSA’s symptoms are most evident during the daytime. These symptoms also include sleepiness, lack of concentration, inability to focus, and other cognitive distortions. All of these may result in various consequences (for example, a car accident).

The second misconception states that OSA is a more sophisticated term used to describe simple snoring. Although both of these conditions are similar, they are not one and the same. As a matter of fact, snoring is one of the symptoms of OSA and is not sophisticated enough to be as dangerous as OSA on its own.

The third misconception suggests that alcohol helps to alleviate the symptoms and increases the quality of sleep. In truth, alcohol may only worsen OSA because it makes throat and tongue muscles relax even faster which may significantly worsen the symptoms. Additionally, alcohol stimulates weight gain which may also worsen the condition.

The fourth misconception states that OSA is dependent on age and cannot manifest in youth or middle-aged adults. OSA can, nevertheless, manifest in people of any age depending on their overall health condition which is related to the fifth misconception. It states that OSA is treatable only via surgical intervention. On the contrary, OSA is a condition that is preventable and treatable by simply maintaining one’s healthy state.

Impact on Cognitive Processes

Cognitive processes are affected mainly by the fact that a brain does not get enough time to rest, and a person becomes distracted, unable to concentrate, and the overall cognitive abilities are significantly worsened. People with OSA often cannot focus even on the most basic activities that they perform daily. Naturally, they are also unable to properly carry out their duties because even the simplest task that they will receive may prove to be too hard to concentrate on it.

Impact on Psychological Processes

The impact that OSA has on psychological processes is also straightforward. Due to lack of concentration and general fatigue, people become indifferent and passive. However, these effects may vary from person to person with some becoming more aggressive and impulsive in their actions because they are irritated by their condition.

Proposed Medical and Psychological Treatment

The primary concern regarding OSA’s treatment is “the severity of the sleep-disordered breathing (SDB)” (Downey, 2017, para. 1). If the condition is not yet manifested severely enough in a patient, it is possible to offer them a broad variety of options. People with moderate-to-severe OSA must receive nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Naturally, there are such options as reducing body weight and cessation of alcohol consumption altogether or four to six hours before going to sleep. Additionally, it is possible to avoid causing obstructions by sleeping on one’s side rather than turning to sleep on their back or stomach. However, it is still considered that losing body weight is the most optimal option for reducing the chances of developing a sleep disorder such as OSA. Downey (2017) states that “a 10% reduction in weight leads to a 26% reduction in the respiratory disturbance index (RDI)” (para. 3). Along with decreasing RDI chances, losing bodyweight also causes patients to maintain optimal levels of blood pressure, improve pulmonary functions, stabilize arterial blood gas values, cease snoring and improve sleep quality. Additionally, if CPAP is implemented, losing body weight results in a significant decrease in optimum pressure required for the procedure.

There are also mechanical and surgical ways of adjusting airways so that the possibility of obstruction becomes insignificant. Along with CPAP, health care specialists may implement a “bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) device and oral appliance (OA) therapy” (Downey, 2017, para. 5). All in all, there are a lot of ways to treat and prevent OSA and other sleeping disorders. Although the prevalence of this condition is growing, health care institutions possess sufficient means to ensure fast and successful recovery with minimal chances of relapse.


Downey, R. (2017). Web.

Garvey, J. F., Pengo, F. M., Drakatos, P., & Kent, B. D. (2015). Epidemiological aspects of obstructive sleep apnea. Journal of Thoracic Disease, 7(5), 920-929.

(2017). Web.

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