Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome


Definition - What does Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome mean?

Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a sleep disorder where the soft tissue musculature lining the throat relaxes, causing the upper airway to narrow, marking intervals of snoring (10 seconds) to compensate for deficient airflow, following complete closure in the throat resulting in breathing cessation. In some instances, people can experience partial blockage of the airway, inducing episodes of shallow breathing called hypopnoea, happening concurrently with bouts of apnea on a nightly basis, which is referred to as obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome.

WorkplaceTesting explains Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome

When breathing cessations are persistent, blood oxygen levels decline where the brain triggers automatic wakefulness briefly to sustain respiration, usually without the individual regaining full consciousness during the event. An established criterion is set highlighting a minimum of five episodes of apnoea, hypopnoea, or both occurrences at night in receiving a legitimate diagnosis for OSAS, falling under a subclass of frequency ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Sleep apnea can be an attributable factor to physiological anomalies, maxillofacial irregularities, and lifestyle habits including obesity and smoking.

Because many people are unaware that they have sleep apnea, recognizing early symptoms is crucial in offsetting health risks that can jeopardize personal and public health and safety including excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, depression, and energy depletion. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a benchmark for gauging relative sleepiness in patients who are candidates for OSAS, also serving as a mainstay for pointing to etiological implications including cardiovascular disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), Type 2 diabetes, and stroke. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is a therapeutic modality designed to administer steady air pressure to prevent throat muscles from collapsing, maintaining a consistent respiration rate to promote healthy sleep patterns.

In the workplace, OSAS can have adverse consequences on individuals that operate a commercial motor vehicle where excessive daytime sleepiness heightens the incidence rate for accidents and injuries, posing subsequent liabilities for employers. Moreover, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) stipulates that drivers with OSAS experiencing ongoing daytime sleepiness are obligated to keep the organization abreast of their condition in conjunction with current CPAP therapy to help mediate normal breathing and retain licensure for driving.

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