Sleep Apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

There are two main types of sleep apnea:

1. Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common type that occurs when the upper airway closes during sleep

2. Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing


SymptomsComplicationsTests & DiagnosisTreatmentRisk Factors
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings gasping for air
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Attention problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Sudden death
  • Stroke
  • Memory problems
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headache
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent awakenings to urinate during sleep
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Children can be misdiagnosed as having ADHD.

Polysomnography (PSG):

This is done in a hospital or sleep center. You have to see a sleep specialist and have your insurance approval to have a PSG.

Home Sleep Test (HST):

Home sleep test is done at home where you wear equipment that collects information about your breathing during sleep. You do not have to sleep in the hospital or sleep center to have your sleep test.

Treatments for sleep apnea may include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), Auto CPAP and Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP).
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP).
  • Oral appliances

Surgery such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty, radiofrequency ablation of the base of the tongue, jaw repositioning, or tracheostomy. Also nasal surgery to remove polyps or straighten a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum) can also help sometimes.

Oxygen supplement during sleep might treat central sleep apnea.

  • Weight loss
  • Exercise
  • Avoiding alcohol and sedatives at bedtime
  • Treating allergic rhinitis
  • Smoking cessation

Obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Excess weight, however thin people may develop OSA
  • Increased Neck circumference
  • An Inherited narrow airway
  • Male sex
  • Age over 50 years
  • Family history
  • Blacks are more likely to have OSA
  • Use of alcohol and sedatives before bedtime
  • Smoking
  • Allergic rhinitis causing nasal congestion

Central sleep apnea:

  • Male sex
  • Older people
  • Heart disorders
  • Stroke or brain tumor