Why do people get
Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
In most adults, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is associated with
obesity. Other individuals have deformities of the face or
jaw, and others are affected by muscle weakness. Any of these
factors can cause collapse of the throat during sleep.
are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Most patients with obstructive sleep apnea snore. This is
often noted by the person’s bed partner who complains
about the snoring. Episodes of breathing cessation may be
witnessed, and may be quite frightening.
People who have obstructive sleep apnea are often sleepy during
the daytime. This happens because each of the stop breathing
episodes causes brief arousal from sleep. It is not surprising
that patients who are aroused from sleep repetitively during
the night would be excessively sleepy.
should I worry about having sleep apnea?
There are many health consequences to this problem.
The most immediately life-threatening consequence is to fall
asleep driving a car or while performing other activities
which require wakefulness. Patients with sleep disorders such
as obstructive sleep apnea are much more likely to have problems
with automobile accidents than other people.
In the long run, patients with this problem seem to be more
prone to hypertension, strokes, and heart disease. There is
evidence that diabetes may be more difficult to control when
there is inadequate sleep. It may be that persons who have
sleep apnea die at a younger age than others, but this has
not been definitively proven.
Children with obstructive sleep apnea may have school difficulties
and trouble concentrating. Children with obstructive sleep
apnea are not usually excessively sleepy. In fact, they are
often hyperactive. Because of this, they may be diagnosed
with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADD/ADHD). All children who have been diagnosed
with these problems should be evaluated for sleep problems.
How is Sleep Apnea diagnosed?
Sleep apnea is diagnosed by performing a test known as polysomnography
(PSG). During this test, the patient is hooked up to electrodes
which record brain waves (EEG), heart rhythm (EKG), oxygen
saturation, breathing effort, and airflow. Other parameters
are sometimes measured as well. PSG testing is performed at
night at The Center for Respiratory and Sleep Disorders.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Patients with this problem need treatment in most cases. Treatment
may be as simple as losing weight. N more severe cases, a
device called CPAP is used. This device blows air into the
back of the throat of the affected person in order to “splint”
it open. As a result, snoring is eliminated, sleep is improved,
and there is no more oxygen desaturation.
Some patients are candidates for surgical procedures on the
palate, throat and jaw.
What is CPAP?
The term CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway
Pressure.” This is a device which blows air under pressure
through a nasal mask into the back of the patient’s
throat. When this happens the throat is splinted open, snoring
is gone, and sleep is improved because the patient no longer
What happens if I can't sleep with CPAP?
Most patients who use CPAP tolerate it well. Most patients
who need it wear it and improve. Some patients find it difficult
to tolerate, however. In such individuals there is often a
problem with the size or type of mask which was used (several
brands and styles are available).
At The Center for Respiratory and Sleep Disorders, we assist
patients who have trouble tolerating CPAP. Each time CPAP
patients return to our Center we ask that they bring their
CPAP unit and mask with them. We are often able to fix problems
that patients have with mask and CPAP tolerance. We work with
home care companies to ensure that CPAP is comfortable and