Sleep Apnea

The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA results from a blockage of your windpipe, which generally is caused by the tongue, tonsils, or excess tissue in the throat. It can affect anyone, but is seen mostly in obese individuals. You are more likely to have sleep apnea if you are obese; have high blood pressure; hypothyroidism or heart disease; suffer from depression or anxiety; abuse alcoholic beverages or smoke.

Symptoms may include:

  • Snoring with pauses in breathing cycle that may last 1 to 2 minutes
  • Choking and gasping for breath during sleep that may cause you to awaken
  • Unusual sleepiness, irritability and decreased energy levels during the day
  • Interrupted sleep patterns, insomnia, and headache upon awakening
  • Inability to "get a good night’s sleep"

What your doctor can do:

Diagnose the disease by:

  • Performing a physical exam and reviewing your medical history and current medications.
  • Ordering laboratory blood tests, or a polysomnogram (sleep study) to monitor your sleep patterns in a sleep lab.

Treatment may include:

  • Ordering a special mask and small air-compressor called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or a mouth-piece to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Referring you to a dentist who can make special oral appliances to improve air flow during sleep
  • Surgery for the removal of excess throat tissue (e.g., tonsils) in rare cases
  • Prescription of certain medications in severe cases.

What you can do:

  • Weight reduction is important if you are overweight.
  • Sleep on your side, not your back. Attach a ping-pong ball or tennis ball to your pajamas to keep you off your back.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages and sleep aids.
  • Start an exercise program with your doctor’s permission and advice.
  • Use your CPAP and/or mouth-piece regularly

Contact your doctor if symptoms continue or worsen despite treatment.

Seek immediate medical assistance, if you develop difficulty breathing, chest pain, or shortness of breath!