SLEEP APNEA - Watsons Health
Sleep Apnea - WatsonsHealth


Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious and common sleep disorder that makes you to stop breathing while you sleep. The airway frequently becomes blocked, restricting the amount of air that goes into your lungs. When this occurs, you may making choking noises or snore loudly as you try to breathe. Your body and brain becomes oxygen deprived and you may wake up. This may occur a few times a night, or in more serious cases, many times a night.

In many people, temporary pause or an apnea in breathing is caused by the tissue in the rear side of the throat collapsing. The muscles of the upper airway relax when you fall asleep. If you sleep on your back, gravity can make the tongue to fall back. This shrinks the airway, which limits the amount of air that can go to your lungs. The blocked airway makes snoring by causing the tissue in back of the throat vibrate as you breathe.

The most usual symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. But, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Snoring is probably to be a sign of sleep apnea when it is followed by calm breathing pauses and choking or gasping sounds.

Patients with sleep apnea normally have daytime sleepiness or fatigue.

Major symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Loud or regular snoring
  • Silent pauses or apnea in breathing
  • Choking or gasping sounds
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking during the night to go to the bathroom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Irritability


A certified sleep medicine doctor can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea with the help of an in-lab sleep examination or a home sleep apnea test.

The physician will want to know your symptoms, and whether they started when you gained weight or quit exercising. If you can, ask a roommate or partner or relative if they have ever noticed you snore loudly or make choking noises in your sleep.

You have to maintain a sleep diary for two weeks. This means information regarding what time you went to bed every night, when you woke up in the morning and how many times you woke up every night. This will help the physician observe your sleep patterns, which might have clues regarding how to diagnose and correct your sleep disorder.



Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that needs to be treated. A board certified sleep physician can help you select a treatment plan that is right for you. Depending on the treatment, he or she may work in collaboration with other members of the sleep team, including dentists, psychologists, physician assistants, nurses and technologists. Your plan may include any combination of these treatments:

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

CPAP is a machine that uses a steady stream of air to gently keep your airway open throughout the night so you are able to breathe. CPAP is the frontline treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and is recommended for all cases.

Oral Appliance Therapy

An oral appliance is a device that fits in your mouth over your teeth while you sleep. It may resemble a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. The device prevents the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue in position or by sliding your jaw forward so that you can breathe when you are asleep.


There are a variety of surgical options you can elect to have if CPAP or oral appliance therapy does not work for you. The most common options reduce or eliminate the extra tissue in your throat that collapses and blocks your airway during sleep.

Weight Management

In some cases weight loss can help improve or eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms if you are overweight or obese. Overweight people often have thick necks with extra tissue in the throat that may block the airway

Positional Therapy

Positional therapy is a behavioral strategy to treat positional sleep apnea. Positional therapy may involve wearing a special device around your waist or back. It keeps you sleeping in the side position. Positional therapy can be used alone or together with another sleep apnea treatment.

Lifestyle Changes

Behavioral changes such as quitting smoking or not drinking alcohol may improve sleep apnea symptoms. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles which can cause you to snore or for your airway to collapse. If you have allergies, taking a decongestant before you go to bed may help improve airflow through your nose.

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