Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep due to collapse or partial collapse of the airway in one’s throat region. The "apnea" in sleep apnea refers to a pause in breathing or significant reduction in airflow that lasts ten seconds or longer. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Snoring is a warning sign that the airway may be partially obstructed. Another, much less common form of sleep apnea, is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep.

More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. OSA is more commonly seen in men than women and the risk increases with body weight and age. OSA can also be observed in young adults and children. Narrowing of the upper airway is correlated with increased risk for OSA.

OSA can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. The long-term effects of untreated OSA can include hypertension, depression, motor vehicle accidents, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. OSA is also thought to increase the tendency for pre-diabetes or worsen control of blood sugar in diabetes.

Symptoms of OSA include:

  • Loud, regular snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fitful sleep
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Heartburn or reflux at night
  • Morning headaches


The treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). CPAP uses a mask that makes a pressure seal with the nose and/or mouth, to gently support the airway open during sleep. This method of treatment is highly effective. Regular use of the device is required for the treatment to be optimally effective. For this reason is very important that the patient is properly fitted with a comfortable mask and head gear.

Alternative methods for treating OSA include dental appliances, which reposition the lower jaw. In general these are best suited to mild or moderate cases. There are also a variety of upper airway surgical procedures to remove tissue in the airway or expand the airway.

The severity of OSA is often associated with excessive body weight therefore weight loss can be an effective and healthful way to improving the condition. It is advised that people use one of the other treatments while they work on weight loss.

Sleep Topics

Sleep Basics

Children's Sleep

Restless Leg Syndrome


Sleep in Elderly

Womens' Sleep




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