Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and the Relationship to Oxygen Desaturation

My son had “an overnight O2 saturation study, which revealed significant, though not severe, desaturations; However, by discharge it was decided not to recommend home O2, and this did not seem an issue afterwards.” Apparently once you are placed on oxygen you never get off oxygen so I was glad this wasn’t pursued. My son will also sleep right through them as the article states “the person may sleep right through the episodes completely unaware of them, often a partner will notice and become alarmed.” Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below.

Disordered Breathing During Sleep Affects Blood Oxygen Levels

Patients who develop sleep disturbances often seek the aid of a physician who commonly refers them for sleep studies. Sleep studies can yield important diagnostic information about a person’s sleep cycles, oxygen levels, and the quantity and length of breathing interruptions. What is the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and lower oxygen oxygen levels during sleep? How does sleep apnea lead to oxygen desaturations that may affect overall health?

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

One of the most common sleep disorders diagnosed in people with difficulty sleeping is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. The condition affects more than millions of Americans, and can be serious. Information gathered during a sleep study can guide a physician in making the diagnosis.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is a blockage of air flow through the throat during sleep when a person’s upper airway collapses during sleep. When this happens, breathing stops for as little as 10 seconds and even up to a minute or longer.

People with sleep apnea experience frequent, repeated episodes during a single night, sometimes hundreds. And while the person may sleep right through the episodes completely unaware of them, often a partner will notice and become alarmed.

During periods of apnea, people received less air, which results in decreased oxygen delivery to the body.

The oxygen levels of the blood may fall repeatedly. This oxygen decrease is called an oxygen desaturation. It often drops by 3 or 4 percent (and sometimes much more) in association with sleep apnea events.

Oxygen levels are considered abnormal when they drop below 88 percent. These might be deemed to be severely abnormal when the levels drop below 80 percent.

When the oxygen levels are low for more than 5 minutes during the night, this is a condition called hypoxemia.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Due to disrupted breathing in sleep, sleep apnea can cause people to feel drowsier the next day. In addition, without treatment, sleep apnea can result in any of the following signs and symptoms:


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