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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Several types of sleep apnea exist, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring, although not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea snores.

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk:

  • Excess Weight

    More than half of those with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight and vice versa. Thin people can develop the disorder, as well.

  • Neck Circumference

    The size of your neck may indicate whether or not you have an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. That's because a thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight. A neck circumference greater than 17 inches (43 centimeters) for men and 16 inches (41 centimeters) for women is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

  • A Narrowed Airway

    You may inherit a naturally narrow throat. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.

  • Chronic Nasal Congestio

    Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.

  • Being Male

    In general, men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.

  • Being Older

    Sleep apnea occurs two to three times more often in adults older than 65.

  • Menopause

    A woman's risk appears to increase after menopause.

  • A Family History of Sleep Apnea

    If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.

  • Use of Alcohol, Sedatives or Tranquilizers

    These substances relax the muscles in your throat.

  • Smoking

    Smokers are nearly three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.


Sleep Apnea is considered a serious medical condition. Complications may include:
  • Cardiovascular Problems

    Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. About half the people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. The more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk of high blood pressure. Patients with sleep apnea are much more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation. If there's underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event.

  • Daytime Fatigue

    The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. Children and young people with sleep apnea may do poorly in school, have reduced mental development or have behavior problems. Treatment of sleep apnea can improve these symptoms, restoring alertness and improving quality of life.

  • Complications with Medications & Surgery

    Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications after major surgery because they're prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor that you have sleep apnea. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.

  • Sleep-Deprived Partners

    Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and eventually disrupt your relationships. It's not uncommon for a partner to choose to sleep in another room. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well.

Testing & Diagnosis

Nocturnal polysomnography (Sleep Study) Polysomnography (PSG), also known as a sleep study, is a multi-parametric test used in the study of sleep and as a diagnostic tool in sleep medicine.

In order to be properly diagnosed, patients spend a night in a private room at a local sleep center, where sleep patterns, breathing heart activity, muscle tension, leg movement and blood oxygen are monitored and recorded. The overnight recording is safe and painless.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Behavioral Modifications for Sleep Apnea
  • Losing Weight
  • Avoiding Alcohol, Tobacco And Sleeping Pill
  • Sleep With Elevated Head
  • Positional Therapy (sleep On Your Side)

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP is the most widely recommended treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. It provides pressurized air to prevent the airway from collapsing.

Surgery for Sleep Apnea

  • Nasal Surgery

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

    UPPP is a surgical procedure used to remove tissue in the throat.

  • Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery

    By moving the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) forward, the entire airway can be enlarged. This procedure serves as the most effective surgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.