The death of veteran singer-composer Bappi Lahiri of complications arising from obstructive sleep apnoea has raised public interest in knowing the disease that is widespread across the world but is not taken as seriously as the ailment merits. Dr Deepak Namjoshi (MD, DETRD), physician, cardiologist, pulmonologist and director of the hospital where the composer breathed his last, said, “Lahiri had been admitted to the hospital for a month due to lung infection which was caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). We had discharged him on Monday and he was absolutely fine. All his vitals were normal. But his health deteriorated on Tuesday and his family called in. He was brought to the hospital. He had multiple health issues. He died due to OSA shortly before midnight.” He was last seen in one of the weekend episodes of Bigg Boss 15 with Salman Khan.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
There are several sleep apnoea disorders, out of which obstructive sleep apnoea is one of the most common breathing disorders. It is when a person repeatedly stops and starts breathing in sleep.
OSA is the condition in which your upper airway is blocked by something while you sleep. Due to the blockage, a person’s diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the airway to pull air into the lungs. In such episodes, a person’s breath becomes shallow, or he may stop breathing briefly and then breathe again with a loud jerk or gasp. Those suffering from OSA may not sleep well but they probably won’t know that it’s happening with them.
This normally occurs when the airway muscles relax more than they should, thereby narrowing your throat. People wake up to open the airway and may not even remember doing it. In acute cases, it may occur multiple times in an hour. Obesity, inflamed tonsils and even health issues like endocrine disorders or heart failure can cause OSA.
Signs and symptoms of OSA
- Loud snoring is one of the most common signs of sleep apnoea. Other signs include
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
- High blood pressure
- Decreased libido
Treatment of sleep apnoea
There are treatments available for obstructive sleep apnoea. One of the more common treatments is using a device to keep positive pressure in your airway to ensure they are open while you sleep. Doctors also use a mouthpiece to push your lower jaw forward during sleep. Surgery is also an option in some cases.
According to Dr Manisha Mendiratta, HoD and senior consultant, Centre for Respiratory Medicine & Sleep Disorders, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad, “About 15% of men and about 12-13% of women in the society suffer from sleep apnoea, though the condition largely remains neglected and undiagnosed. Most people don’t realize they are suffering from sleep apnoea.”
What causes obstructive sleep apnoea?
Obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA in adults mostly happens due to obesity. The soft tissue of the mouth and throat relaxes during sleep thus blocking the airway. These muscles usually give support to the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate called the uvula, the tonsils, and the sidewalls of the throat and the tongue. So when these muscles relax, the airways narrow down and restrict the flow of air to the body as a result of which the oxygen level in the blood lowers. This causes the brain to wake up the body to reopen the airway. This awakening from deep sleep is usually unnoticeable and can repeat up to 30 times every night. OSA disrupts the body’s requirement to be in deep sleep.
What is the difference between sleep apnoea and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome?
In obstructive sleep apnoea, the upper respiratory system gets blocked or narrowed down thus blocking the airways. The brain repeatedly sends signals to the human body to wake up and continue breathing.
In sleep apnoea or the central sleep apnoea, the brain forgets or is incapable of sending signals to the body to keep breathing as a result of which the body stops breathing temporarily. Central sleep apnoea is less common than obstructive sleep apnoea.
Can obstructive sleep apnoea be cured?
Through continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) and various other oral appliances are used to help the person breathe easily, it is not the cure. The best way to cure sleep apnoea is to reduce one’s weight so that one can breathe properly while sleeping.
Is obstructive sleep apnoea life-threatening?
Yes, definitely it is. Obstructive sleep apnoea can trigger chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease. Experts have also linked sleep apnoea with the life expectancy of an individual and have said it to be inversely related to each other. The risk of death increases when sleep apnoea is untreated.
What are the three types of sleep apnoea?
The three types of sleep apnoea are obstructive, central and complex among which OSA is very common. In the obstructive sleep apnoea the throat muscles relax and slow down respiration, in central sleep apnoea the brain stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing thus pausing respiration temporarily and the complex sleep apnoea is when both the first sleep apnoea occurs. The complex sleep apnoea is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnoea.
What is the life expectancy of someone with sleep apnoea?
Experts have associated occurrence of sleep apnoea with lower life expectancy. Sleep apnoea worsens chronic illnesses and studies have shown that it decreases the longevity of the person by several years. As per a report, if left untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea can shorten your life by anywhere between 12-15 years.