Will My Obstructive Sleep Apnea Ever Go Away?
Hey Sleep Warriors!
Will Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, ever go away? Many patients ask me this question. My style has always been to be upfront with people, so I want to do the same for you.
The short answer: probably not, but it depends, so stick with me.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition where an individual experiences brief and repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, due to the relaxation of throat muscles. It tends to get worse with age as the tissue in the back of our throats gets a little “looser”. It also gets worse with increased weight.
Now, thankfully we have effective treatments for OSA, such as CPAP and oral appliances. These therapies work by keeping the airways open, reducing or eliminating the occurrences of apnea events during sleep.
While CPAP and other therapies are excellent for managing symptoms, such as improving daytime sleepiness, and overall sleep quality, it's important to note that they don't necessarily address the underlying cause of OSA. It's like using glasses for vision correction; it aids the condition but doesn’t cure it
So, for most people, sleep apnea does not go away.
But, like most things in medicine, there are exceptions.
#1 - weight loss! Excess weight, particularly around the neck, can contribute to airway obstruction. Therefore, losing a significant amount of weight may eliminate your OSA. However, here’s the catch – it can be quite challenging to lose weight when dealing with untreated sleep apnea due to the impact on energy levels and metabolism.
Addressing your sleep apnea with treatment can help improve your energy levels and overall well-being, potentially making it easier to engage in healthy behaviors and weight loss activities.
So I recommend getting started on treatment – use it as a springboard to increase energy and motivation – and then after you have lost a significant amount of weight (usually at least 10-20% of your body weight or to a BMI below 30), retest with a diagnostic sleep study.
The second situation in which sleep apnea may go away is surgery. For some people, nasal or oral surgery can improve airflow and open the airway. One such surgery is a tonsillectomy for people who have enlarged tonsils. If you remove what’s in the way, your sleep apnea is likely to improve.
An important point is that it can be difficult to know if your sleep apnea has resolved if you don’t do another sleep study. Even if you “feel” like your sleep apnea has improved or gone away, it is important to retest, as untreated sleep apnea can lead to a number of negative effects on your overall health, especially if you had moderate to severe sleep apnea.
Living with Obstructive Sleep Apnea means adapting to a new normal. Maintaining the continuous flow of oxygen to your brain is critical. It not only prevents the immediate symptoms of sleep apnea but also reduces the risk of long-term health issues, such as heart disease and stroke. It's crucial to work on your mindset, to embrace the treatments available, and to understand that by treating your sleep apnea, you are enabling your best life through quality sleep.
So in conclusion, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition that may not ‘go away’ in the conventional sense. However, with the right treatment, lifestyle changes, and mindset, you can lead a joyful, productive, and healthy life.
Thanks for being here, I’ll see you next week!