What It Is:

Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes obstructed and prevents oxygen from reaching the brain and body, and it is a condition that affects 20 million adults in the U.S. The body's natural defense to this is to 'wake up' to take a deep breath, and it can occur repeatedly during a person's sleep cycle - preventing them from entering the stages of deep sleep the body needs to rejuvenate itself. The most common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is loud snoring, and there may also be pauses in your breathing following by a loud snore or snort.


A serious condition, just a few of the effects of OSA include daytime sleepiness, anxiety, depression, memory loss and confusion, behavior problems, and sexual dysfunction. By having the oxygen flow interrupted in this way over long periods of time, it can also lead to high blood pressure irregular heartbeat, heart attack or stroke. If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned here, you should speak with your physician immediately, as an overnight sleep study may be indicated.


The most common treatment for OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine to increase air pressure in the throat, keeping the airway from collapsing when you breathe in - thus eliminating those periods of time when OSA causes breathing to stop. It consists of wearing a mask over your nose and/or mouth during sleep. An adjustment period is sometimes - but not always - needed for patients to get acclimated to this device. However, the ability to feel rested and refreshed upon waking is worth the effort. Other options known to have a positive effect on the treatment of OSA include weight loss, positional therapy, and surgical interventions.