When we sleep, all body muscles are more relaxed. Usually, the throat remains sufficiently open to allow air to flow; however, sometimes the muscles on the upper part of the throat relax while we are sleeping and the tissues close, thus blocking our airways. This is what is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a respiratory condition which causes habitual snoring and respiratory pauses of variable duration. Those which last more than 10 seconds are more important from a medical perspective. As a consequence, we do not rest well during our sleeping hours.
'Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder affecting at least 2% to 4% of the adult population.'Clinical Guideline for the Evaluation, Management and Long-term Care of OSA in Adults, the AASM. Lawrence J. Epstein and al.
'An estimated 56% of patients with OSA are positional'.Oksenberg Chest 1997.
'Positional OSA is that in which the apnea index in the supine position is, at least, double than in any other position. In these cases, positional therapy is necessary.'
Most people are unaware of the fact that they suffer from apnea because it takes place during sleep. In fact, very often the first person to notice signs of apnea is our partner. Therefore, in order to detect it, the cooperation of the person we sleep with is very important.
The following symptoms may suggest that you suffer from sleep apnea; if you notice any of them, it is recommended that you visit your GP:
These are some of the consequences of sleep apnea:
Certain factors may increase the risk of suffering from sleep apnea:
The Stop Bang scale will help you find out whether you belong to the sleep apnea risk population group. Do the test:I will do the test!
When we sleep, our neck muscles relax. Sometimes, they relax so much that our nose and throat partially close and become so narrow that they hinder the air flow towards the lungs. There are also temporary reasons, such as inflammation of the tonsils or overweight around the neck area, or structural reasons, such as the shape of the neck or the jaw. This narrowing of the airways causes a vibration in the throat which is what causes the snoring sound.
Snoring not only affects the quality of your sleep, but it also disrupts your partner's rest, causing them insomnia, morning headaches or daytime sleepiness from bad night-time sleep.
‘35% of the adult population snores, of whom 75% of simple snorers are positional'.Nakano Sleep 2003
Current studies in sleep medicine confirm that the supine position affects the intensity of the snores and the apnea index; positional snorers are those who snore in the supine position.
'50-75% of snoring males between 40 and 70 years of age suffer from OSA'Pascual Domènech M et al. FMC, 2007
Snoring is not a health problem, and a person who snores does not necessarily need to visit the doctor. Intermittent snoring may be a symptom for sleep apnea. If this is the case, you should see your doctor.
CPAP is the most widely used therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apena. A device increases the air pressure in the throat through a mask, so that the airways are not blocked when you breathe in. Despite being very effective, it has numerous secondary effects and it requires a period of adaptation.
There are also positional therapies based on passive techniques, such as attaching a tennis ball to the back, or postural pillows. However, these are disruptive and uncomfortable.
The latest advances in the treatment of OSA and positional snoring take us to Somnibel, the first patented active posture therapy which offers an alternative or supplement to CPAP, depending on the severity of the OSA; it is thus an ideal therapy for patients with mild to moderate positional apnea.
'Positional therapy and CPAP offer similar results in the treatment of patients with positional OSA.'Jokic, Chest, 1999
'Many clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of active positional therapy.'See references