Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic condition that affects as many as 22 million Americans*. Many people are unaware that they may suffer from OSA, which is responsible for most cases of sleep apnea. Eighty percent of the cases of moderate or severe OSA remain undiagnosed.

One of the reasons that OSA is under-diagnosed is that it only happens when you are asleep and therefore, you don’t know it is happening. OSA causes breathing pauses (apneas) or very shallow breathing during sleep. The apneas occur when the upper airway tissues block, or obstruct, the airway. When sleeping, the tissues in the back of the throat or the tongue relax too much, and obstruct the airway, making it difficult for air to reach your lungs. When air tries to move past the obstruction, the tissues vibrate, causing a snoring sound. These apneas can last 10 seconds or longer and can occur many times every hour. During apneas, your oxygen levels can fall to dangerously low levels, potentially leading to serious health conditions.

Males and females of any age can be diagnosed with OSA. Men over 40 or with a large neck circumference, post-menopausal women, and those who are overweight are at higher risk. OSA affects your sleep quality even after sleeping a full night. You may still feel sleepy in the morning, making it difficult to feel alert, concentrate, and perform daily tasks. Poor sleep quality, combined with unhealthy oxygen levels, can negatively affect your body.

Taking the time to learn about OSA, your risk factors, and how it can affect you are the first steps towards better health.

If you think you may have OSA, you should make an appointment with your doctor. For more information, call Breathe Pennsylvania at 724-772-1750.

STOP-BANG Questionnaire

S (snore) Do you snore loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)? Yes/No
T (tired) Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during daytime? Yes/No
O (observed) Has anyone observed you stop breathing during sleep? Yes/No
P (blood pressure) Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure? Yes/No
B (body mass
index (BMI)
BMI > 35 kg/m2? Yes/No
A (age) Age > 50 years? Yes/No
N (neck) Neck circumference > 40 cm? Yes/No
G (gender) Gender male? Yes/No

Yes to ≥ 3 questions = high risk of obstructive sleep apnea
Yes to < 3 questions = low risk of obstructive sleep apnea

*Adapted from Chung et al.
The STOP-BANG questionnaire is commonly used by healthcare providers as a screening tool for obstructive sleep apnea. It is included here as only a tool to help you begin a conversation with your doctor about your risk of OSA.