Obstructive Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. Approximately 2 million American adults have sleep disorder. 9% of middle­aged women and 25% of middle­aged men suffer from OSA. Unfortunately, 75% remain undiagnosed. There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea,​the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax
  • Central sleep apnea,​which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing

The signs and symptoms of sleep apneas include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath (usually Central Sleep Apnea)
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Attention problems and ADD even in adolescents
  • Lack of energy
  • Hypertension
  • Frequent nocturnal urination
  • Obesity and large neck size
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Diabetes
  • Depression,irritability and personality changes
  • Nighttime gasping, choking or coughing
  • Frequent need for naps
  • Sexual problems and Erectile Dysfunction
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Inability to wake up in the morning

Risk factors

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. But certain factors put you at increased risk:

Obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Excess weight.​Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However,thin people can develop this as well.
  • Family history.​Increases your chance of getting sleep apnea disorder, too.
  • Neck circumference.​People with a thicker neck may have a narrower airway.
  • A narrowed airway.​You may have inherited a naturally narrow throat. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
  • Being male.​Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to increase after menopause.
  • Being older.​Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in adults older than 60.
  • Race.​In people under 35 years old, African Americans are more likely to have OSA.
  • Alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers.​They relax the muscles in your throat.
  • Smoking.​Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
  • Nasal congestion.​If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether it’s from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop OSA.

Central sleep apnea

  • Being male.​Males are more likely to develop central sleep apnea.
  • Being older.​People older than 65 have a higher risk of having central sleep apnea.
  • Heart disorders.​People with atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure are more at risk.
  • Stroke/brain tumor.​These conditions can impair the brain’s ability to regulate breathing.


  • High blood pressure or heart problems.​Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. The risk of heart attack is 5 times greater in people with OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of stroke twice as much as the normal population, regardless of whether or not you have high blood pressure. If there’s underlying heart disease, these multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event. Studies also show that obstructive sleep apnea is associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and other vascular diseases.
  • Daytime fatigue.​The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. You may have difficulty concentrating and find yourself falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. You may also feel irritable, moody or depressed. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea may do poorly in school or have behavioral problems and are often diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Complications with medications and surgery.​Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia.
  • Liver problems.​People with sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring.
  • People with sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia), a decreased interest in sex, increased risk of diabetes, premature death, decreased job performance, increased risk of automobile accident (6 times as much), chronic pain and weight gain.
  • If you think you might have sleep apnea, call our office at (512) 260-0101 ​for an urgent appointment. Treatment is necessary to avoid heart problems and other complications.