Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects some 18 million people. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2002 Sleep in America poll, about 1 in 10 adults reported experiencing some pauses in breathing during sleep. Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea. About 59% of adults said they snore, according to the same poll. About 1/4 of those who snore do so every night or almost every night. In sleep apnea, the airway of the snorer closes and he/she must wake up to resume breathing. This cycle may repeat hundreds of times during the night, resulting in severe daytime sleepiness.

What are the risks to my health from Sleep Apnea?

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • People with untreated sleep apnea are 2-7 times more likely to have automobile crashes than the general population.

What are some of the signs of Sleep Apnea?

  • Loud Snoring
  • Snoring accompanied by snorts, gasping, or choking noises
  • Snoring with pauses
  • Daytime SleepinessChanges in alertness, memory, and interest in daily activities
  • Irritability and/or Depression
  • High blood pressure (when found in combination with the above symptoms)
  • Accidents or near misses related to sleepiness

Who is at risk for having Sleep Apnea?

  • Males: twice as likely as females
  • Primarily men and women in the 30-50 age bracket
  • Obese individuals or those more than 20% over their ideal weight
  • Individuals with difficulty breathing through their noses
  • Children or adults with enlarged tonsils
  • Children who are obese

Is there anything I can try to help with my snoring?

  • Lose Weight
  • Drink only in moderation and avoid alcohol within two hours of bedtime
  • Avoid sleeping pills and other medications, which make you sleepy
  • Sleep on your side
  • Treat nasal congestion. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for their recommendations
  • Avoid extreme fatigue
  • Stop smoking

How is Sleep Apnea diagnosed?

The diagnosis of this disorder requires an overnight sleep study. For more information, see our page on diagnostic testing.

How is Sleep Apnea treated?

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): In this highly effective therapy, a mask is worn over the nose during sleep. Pressure from an air compressor enters the nasal passages and airway. This gentle pressure holds the airway open and allows the person to breathe normally.
  • Oral Appliances: Devices that may help some apnea patients are designed to open the airway by bringing the jaw, tongue, and soft palate forward.
  • Surgery: There are surgical procedures designed to correct abnormalities of the upper airway. These abnormalities may include enlarged tonsils or adenoids, nasal polyps or other growths, a deviated nasal septum, and malformations of the jaw or soft palate. In one common procedure excess tissue at the back of the throat may be removed. An evaluation by an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist is necessary to determine if you are a candidate for any of these surgical procedures.
  • Oxygen: This is rarely needed for the treatment of Sleep Apnea alone. Oxygen, however, may be added to the nasal CPAP system to correct for low oxygen levels due to existing lung or heart disease.
  • Medication: This is generally of limited benefit for sleep apnea sufferers.
    The suggestions above for the treatment of snoring also pertain to people with Sleep Apnea.
  • Always follow the rules of Good Sleep Hygiene.