Sleep disorder in witch your breathing repeatedly stops and starts is known as sleep apnea. People who snore loudly or feel tired after a full night sleep may have sleep apnea. These are the main types of this sleep disorder:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea- this form occurs when the throat muscles relax;
  • Central sleep apnea- this form occurs when the brain is not sending proper signals to the muscles that are controlling the breathing;
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome- this is form that is combination from the obstructive and central sleep apnea forms.

You should see a doctor if you thing that you have this sleep disorder. Medical treatment can prevent heart problem and can ease your symptoms.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Symptoms


Symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea can overlap, and sometimes is difficult to determine the type of sleep apnea. The Common symptoms and signs of these forms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring- obstructive sleep apnea
  • Awakening with sore throat or a dry mouth
  • Insomnia- difficulty staying asleep
  • Problems with paying attention
  • Irritability
  • Morning headache
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Abrupt awakening accompanied by breath shortness – central sleep apnea

When you need to see a doctor

You must consult a medical professional if you experience the following:

  • Loud Snoring to disturb the sleep of others
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intermittent pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness- can make you fall asleep while working or driving

Not everyone who has a sleep apnea snores, but be sure to see a doctor if you experience loud snoring that’s punctuated by periods of silence


  • Causes of obstructive sleep apnea

This form of sleep apnea occurs when the muscle in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the uvula (triangular piece of tissue), the soft plate, the tongue, the side walls of the throat and the tonsils.

In this state when the muscles relax, you airway closes as you breathe in, so you can’t get an adequate breath in. This may lower the oxygen level in your blood.

When your brain senses this inability to breathe it rouses you from sleep so you can reopen your airway. Snoring, choking or gasping sound can be make.

This sound can be repeated 5-30 times in each hour or all night long. Some people are not aware that they have sleep apnea, they think they sleep well at night.

  • Causes of central sleep apnea

This form is less common and it occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to the breathing muscles. People with this form of sleep apnea have trouble getting to sleep or may awaken with shortness of breath.

Risk Factors

This sleep disorder can affect anyone. These are the factor that increase the risk of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Excess weight. Overweight people have 4 times bigger risk of sleep apnea. Not everyone that has sleep apnea have excess weight.
  • Neck circumference. Man that have neck circumference 43 cm (17’’) have higher risk. In women the risk factor increase if neck circumference is 38cm or more.
  • Being male. Men are twice as likely to have this disorder. In women the risk rises after menopause.
  • Family history. Family member with this condition may increase your risk.
  • Smokers have bigger chances to have obstructive sleep apnea. The risk drops after you quit smoking.
  • Nasal congestion. Anatomical problem or allergies can develop obstructive sleep apnea

Central Sleep apnea

  • Being older. Higher risk of central sleep apnea can be found in middle-aged people
  • Heart disorder. Congestive heart failure means higher risk of central sleep apnea
  • Using narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications such as methadone can increase the risk of this sleep disorder.
  • People who survived stroke are more at risk of central sleep apnea.


Complications from this disorder may include:

  • Daytime fatigue- Irritability, drowsiness and fatigue can be experienced. It may make you fall asleep at work, when driving or watching TV. Behavior problems are common at children and adolescents with sleep apnea.
  • High blood pressure or heart problems- Drops in blood oxygen levels increases the blood pressure and strains the cardiovascular system. If you have obstructive sleep apnea you have risk of hypertension.
  • Type 2 diabetes- Sleep apnea can develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome- Collection of high blood pressure, high level of blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol.
  • Complications with medications and surgery- People who have this disorder may experience complications during surgeries because they a prone to breathing problems.
  • Liver Problems- This disorder is also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Sleep- deprived partners- Loud snoring can keep awake those around you.

Preparing for your appointment

If you think that you or your partner have sleep apnea it is good first to see your primary care doctor. Here’s some information how to prepare for your appointment and what you should expect.

What you can do

  • Write on paper the symptoms that you are experiencing
  • Create a list of all supplement , vitamins and medications that you take
  • Bring a family member or a friend with you
  • Write down the question you want to ask your doctor

Because the time with the doctor is limited, list with questions to ask is crucial. In the list below are some basic questions to ask your doctor

  1. What is the cause of my symptoms?
  2. Is there some tests I need to do and do they require any preparations?
  3. Is this condition long lasting or temporary?
  4. Which is the best treatment for me?
  5. Which treatment is available?
  6. Should I see a sleep specialist?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor probably will ask:

  1. When did the symptoms start?
  2. Are your symptoms continuous, or coma and go?
  3. How severe are they?
  4. How does your partner describe them?
  5. Is there anything that has helped your symptoms?
  6. Do you know that you stop breathing during sleep and how many times?
  7. What makes your symptoms worse?

What you can do in the meantime

  • Try to sleep on the side
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime
  • Avoid medications ( sedative)
  • Avoid driving if you’re drowsy

Tests and Diagnosis

Depending on your symptoms and signs your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorder center. A sleep specialist will decide what you should do further. Overnight monitoring of your breathing will be made. In the detecting of sleep apnea also may include:

  • Nocturnal polysomnography- in this test you will be hooked up to equipment that monitors your lung activity, heart activity, brain activity, movements of arm and leg, blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
  • Home sleep tests- These tests involve monitoring your heart rate, oxygen level in blood, breathing patterns and airflow.

In case you have obstructive sleep apnea you may be asked to see an ear, nose and throat doctor.

Treatments and drugs

In some cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes. This may include quitting smoking and losing weight. Nasal allergies will be treated with medications. In some cases surgery may be necessary.


  • (CPAP) Continuous positive airway pressure – If you have sleep apnea, a machine that deliver air pressure through a mask over your nose may bring you benefit. To find the comfortable mask you may try more than one type.
  • Other airway pressure device. Another device of air pressure delivery must be used if CPAP doesn’t stops. There are some units (BiPAP) that deliver more pressure when you inhale.
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP). This device allows the air to move freely in.
  • Oral appliances. This devices are designed to open your throat by bringing your jaw forward.


If other treatments fail surgery is the only opinion. Usually three month of treatment is needed before you may consider surgery. The main goal of surgery is to enlarge the airway through your throat, nose. Surgery may include:

  • Tissue removal– In this procedure the doctor removes a small tissue form the back of your mouth and a tissue form the top of your throat. Tonsils are removed as well. This surgery may eliminate the snoring.
  • Jaw repositioning– In this surgery your jaw is moved forward so the space behind the tongue is enlarged.
  • Implants– Plastic rods are implanted into the soft plate by surgery.
  • Creating a new air passageway – This procedure known as tracheostomy is made when other treatments fail. The doctor makes a hole in your neck and inserts a plastic or metal tube which helps you to breathe.


  • Treatment for associated medical problems
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Continuous positive airway pressure
  • Bilevel positive airway pressure
  • Adaptive servo- ventilation

Lifestyle and home remedies

The most appropriate way to deal with sleep apnea is self- care. Here are some tips:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Don’t sleep on your back. Best way is on your side
  • Quit smoking
  • Regular Exercise
  • Avoid alcohol an medications such as sleeping pills