Sleep apnea is a condition in which the flow of air pauses during breathing while you sleep because the airway has become blocked. Relaxation of the muscles in the upper throat in people who have a narrow airway can result in a blocked airway. Common symptoms include:

  • Waking unrefreshed
  • Loud snoring, followed by a long silent period (apnea), then a loud snort or gasp which is followed by breathing or snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Depression that worsens
  • Feeling sleepy or falling asleep inappropriately during the day, such as while driving or during conversation
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness or irritability
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Poor school or work performance
  • In children, hyperactive behavior may occur
  • Disturbed sleep of bed partner

Because people who have sleep apnea are asleep when some symptoms occur, they are often not aware of the periods of not breathing (apnea). Often it is the bed partner or a family member who witnesses the apnea.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Your physician will perform a complete medical history and physical exam. You may be given a survey to complete asking about daytime sleepiness, sleep quality and bedtime habits. A sleep study (polysomnogram) is used to confirm sleep apnea and this is performed in a Sleep Disorders Center. In certain instances, a sleep study may be done with a portable system you can take home and then return to the Sleep Center the following day.

Medical issues associated with sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is associated with the conditions listed below, as well as obesity and diabetes. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Workplace errors and/or accidents