What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is estimated to effect 20 million people. It occurs when the airway becomes completely blocked and air is not able to move through the airway at all. This is more commonly called Obstructive Sleep Apnea because the airway is totally obstructed. This obstruction may occur anywhere from the area of the soft palate down to below the base of the tongue. When the airway is totally obstructed the patient will awaken many times during the night with a cough or gasping sound as an attempt is made to restore normal breathing.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea


  • Snoring
  • Non refreshing sleep
  • Daytime fatigue or daytime tiredness
  • History of falling asleep driving, watching TV or reading
  • Awaken during sleep coughing, choking or gasping
  • Morning headaches
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease


Disorders associated with Snoring/Sleep Apnea:

  • Gastric reflux or acid reflux with indigestion
  • Grinding of the teeth during sleep (Bruxism)
  • Diabetes
  • Mood swings
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety


Quiz: Are you at risk for Sleep Apnea?

The following questions may help determine if you are risk for having sleep apnea or if a sleep study may be needed:

Snoring: Do you snore most nights (more than 3 nights per week)?
o Yes     o No

Is your snoring loud?
o Yes     o No

Has anyone told you that you stop breathing during sleep?
o Yes     o No

Is your neck size greater than:
oFor a male: 17 inches
oFor a female: 15 inches
Have you or are you being treated for high blood pressure?
o Yes     o No
Are you often sleepy or fall asleep driving, sitting and reading, watching TV or in quiet situations?
o Yes     o No
Have you been having problems with your memory or with your ability to concentrate?
o Yes     o No
What are the next steps?
If a sleep study has already been done and confirmed sleep apnea then a discussion about treatment can be scheduled.
If two or more of the above questions had a yes answer then you may be at an increased risk for having sleep apnea.   A review of the answers to these questions is necessary and additional questions may be explored.   Regardless, a consultation with your personal physician is advised or a direct referral to a sleep center for a formal sleep study.