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Sleep Apnea FAQ

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?
There are two basic forms of sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused by an obstruction of the air passageway in the throat, while Central Sleep Apnea is a neuromuscular condition caused by a delay in the brain’s signal to breathe. The most common symptom for both types of sleep apnea is excessive, loud snoring.

If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?
No, not necessarily. Although snoring by itself is not a sleep disorder, it is often a sign of the serious sleep disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Simple snoring is caused by a partial obstruction of the upper airways but is not accompanied by an “apnea” or cessation of breath. Simple snoring can be very disturbing to a person’s sleep partner and can be treated by over the counter products.

We recommend that serious snorers come in for a sleep consultation to make sure that their snoring is not a symptom of sleep apnea. If the patient does have sleep apnea and is treated, snoring should decrease or disappear altogether.

What are some risk factors for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is more common in men than women and is also more common in the 35 to 65-year-old age group. Obesity and/or excessive alcohol use can cause sleep apnea. In addition, individuals with hypertension or coronary artery disease are also more likely to develop sleep apnea.

I’m not overweight. Could I still have sleep apnea?
Yes. It is a common misconception that you must be overweight, or overweight and male to have sleep apnea. The most important symptoms to consider are not weight or sex, but instead tiredness during the day and snoring. If you exhibit these or other characteristics of sleep apnea, you should be evaluated.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
The best way to determine whether you have sleep apnea is to be referred by a physician for an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram. The sleep study results will show whether you have sleep apnea and help your physician determine the best treatment option for you.

Are there treatments for sleep apnea?
Yes. If your sleep study shows that you have sleep apnea, the best form of treatment is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine blows pressurized air into the nose via a mask in order to eliminate the snoring and the pauses in breathing that sleep apnea produces. Other treatment options include lifestyle changes, surgery, dental devices, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. With severe cases, a combination of two or more of these methods may be recommended.

Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Yes. People with sleep apnea actually experience oxygen deprivation during their sleep. Their sleep is very ineffective and can leave them extremely fatigued, which can lead to accidents while on the job or driving. Some other risks of untreated sleep apnea include heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.