What is OSA?

OSA stands for obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a medical condition that causes you to have trouble breathing while you sleep.

What are the signs of OSA?

  • Loud snoring or noisy breathing while you sleep
  • Breathing through your mouth while you sleep
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Not breathing while you sleep
  • Trouble waking up in the morning
  • Sleeping in funny positions
  • Feeling sleepy or grouchy during the day
  • Trouble paying attention at school or at work

How common is OSA?

OSA is very common in people who have Down syndrome. Up to 9 out of every 10 people who have Down syndrome will have OSA.

9 out of 10 people have OSA
Up to 9 out of 10 people who have Down syndrome also have OSA. Image courtesy of Piktochart®.


What causes OSA?

  • Small airway (path your breath takes to your lungs when you breathe)
  • Larger tongue
  • Lower muscle tone (muscles that are not as strong as others)
  • More fat around the neck
  • Being overweight or obese (weighing more than usual)
  • Large tonsils or adenoids (glands in your throat that help protect you from germs)

How do I know if I have OSA?

Doctors will do a sleep study to see if you have OSA. A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is when you stay overnight at the hospital. Doctors check your breathing while you sleep.

I had a sleep study when I was younger. Why do I need another one?

You can develop OSA at any time as you get older. Having another sleep study lets doctors check if you have OSA.

Why should I treat my OSA now?

Not treating your OSA can make it hard for you to remember things or focus at school or at work. It can make you more tired, depressed (sad) or worried. Not treating OSA can also cause heart problems and make it harder to lose weight.

Rev. 4/2017
This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.

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