Sleep Apnea - Overview and Facts

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. The airway repeatedly blocks mainly due to the tongue falling back in the airway during sleep, reducing or stopping air from reaching your lungs. When this happens, you may snore or making choking noises as you try to breathe. Your brain and body becomes oxygen deprived. This may happen a few times a night, or in more severe cases, several hundred times a night. Most of the episodes will go un-noticed by the patient himself or herself. Sleep apnea increases the work of breathing and unknowingly disrupts sleep. So it can make you wake up in the morning feeling tired or un-refreshed even though you may have had a full night of sleep. During the day, you may feel fatigued, have difficulty concentrating or you may even unintentionally fall asleep. This is because your body is working hard to breathe and waking up numerous times throughout the night, even though you might not be conscious of each awakening.

Snoring GraphicThe lack of oxygen to your body and disruption to sleep (that can result unknowingly) can have negative long-term consequences for your health. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain including childhood obesity
  • Acid reflux
  • ADD/ADHD in children
  • Chronic headaches

There are many people (adults and children alike) with sleep apnea who have not been diagnosed or received treatment. Our sleep medicine physicians can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep test. Sleep apnea is treatable using CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure), the front-line treatment for sleep apnea, Oral appliance treatment (Somnoguard), positional therapy, weight loss programs and certain surgeries.