Sleep Apnea

Dr. Nabi Darya Vali (AIIMS)MBBS

January 09, 2019

March 06, 2020

Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you are sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition where you begin to snore due to a blockage in the upper airway anywhere from the nose to the windpipe. Central sleep apnea is a condition where breathing signals are not sent by the brain to the breathing muscles. It is important to note that not all suffering from sleep apnea snore at night and vice versa.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Since symptoms occur during sleep, it is difficult for people to detect their own problem.

Following are a few of the symptoms:

  • Sleeping during the day due to troubled breathing at night
  • Gasping and choking during sleep
  • Dry mouth and morning headaches
  • Snoring loudly
  • Getting more irritable and moody
  • Drowsiness through the day

What are the main causes?

Sleep apnea is caused due to an underlying medical condition like:

  • Obesity especially around the neck and chest region
  • Large tonsils
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Kidney failure or heart failure
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Premature birth

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor makes an evaluation on the basis of your sleep history given by someone who shares your bed and a detailed physical examination. Overnight monitoring of breathing and other body functions at a sleep centre may help with a definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea. Nocturnal polysomnography test (sleep studies) is performed to monitor your breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels and heart, lung and brain activity while you sleep. Home sleep tests may be suggested by your doctor.

For minor cases, lifestyle changes like losing body weight or quitting smoking are recommended. In severe cases, a mask is given to maintain a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Oral appliances to hold the tongue in place are used. Surgical removal of tissues at the back of the throat or jaw repositioning is recommended to prevent blocking of the airway.


  1. White Swan Foundation [Internet]. New Delhi; Sleep Apnea.
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Sleep Apnea.
  3. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Sleep Apnea.
  4. Lucia Spicuzza et al. Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and its management. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2015 Sep; 6(5): 273–285. PMID: 26336596
  5. U. S Food and Drug Association. [Internet]. Always Tired? You May Have Sleep Apnea.
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