Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when your airway temporarily collapses during sleep. You continue to make efforts to breath but are unable to move air in and out of your lungs because of the obstruction at the back of your throat. During the collapse, which can last from 10 seconds to over a minute, your breathing muscles continue to work with a progressive effort until you awaken and resume normal breathing. After a few breaths, your oxygen levels return to normal. You fall back to sleep and the airway obstruction occurs again. This cycle may continue throughout the night, disrupting your normal sleep pattern.  As a result, you may complain of un-refreshing sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

What is the cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

cycle-of-ocaThe cycle of OSA starts with snoring and continues until the airway collapses or closes off. The person tries to breathe but is unable to get air into their lungs through the collapsed airway and an apnea (cessation of breathing) occurs. The brain realizes that it is not getting enough oxygen and fresh air so it wakes the person from a deep level, to a lighter level, of sleep. The airway then opens and normal breathing resumes. The person falls back into a deeper sleep, begins snoring again and the cycle repeats.


How common is sleep apnea?
  • 1 in 15 people have moderate to severe OSA (Young et al. JAMA 2004)
  • 9% women and 25% men in the middle-aged working population have OSA (Marshall et al. Sleep 2008)
  • Sleep apnea is as common as diabetes and asthma.
  • Most OSA sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated.
  • 50% of patients with Type II Diabetes have OSA
  • 35% of patients with high blood pressure have OSA 6
What causes the airway to collapse during sleep?
  • Extra tissue in the back of the airway such as large tonsils
  • Decrease in the tone of the muscles holding the airway open
  • The tongue falling back and closing off the airway
  • Abnormal anatomy such as a recessed jaw
What are the common signs and symptoms?

For many sleep apnea patients, it is usually their partner or family members that suspect something is wrong.  They may complain about their snoring and apparent struggle to breath at night. The typical sleep apnea patient may have the following symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
  • Loud irregular snoring
  • Witnessed apneic or choking periods
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent awakenings during the night
  • Rapid onset of sleep
  • Leg cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Sleepiness while driving
  • Frequent need to urinate at night

Normal Breathing

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

More Sleep Apnea Information

Struggling to stick to your New Year’s resolutions? A good night’s sleep can help with that!

It’s February! How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? If you’re struggling to stick with your resolutions, you’re not alone! According to U.S. News, roughly 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. So how can we be part of the 20% that stick to their resolutions? The answer may be hidden in your sleep! We live such busy lives we don’t often think about how well we slept the night before or how refreshed we feel when we wake up in the morning. What we don’t realize is that sleep quality affects our bodies in many ways which then affect our overall lifestyles. 1. Sleep affects your appetite/diet & metabolism You might ask, “what does sleep have to do with my appetite”? The answer: It helps your body regulate your hunger & appetite. During sleep, your body produces hormones called leptin (suppresses appetite) and ghrelin (promotes feeling of hunger). Studies show that sleep deprivation result in lower leptin levels. This leads to increased appetite and hunger, and can result in binge-eating. According to Van Cauter et. al. (2008), lack of sleep also has a negative effect on glucose/carbohydrate metabolism. It makes it difficult for the body to break it down. Those experiencing increased hunger and appetite are more inclined to eat carbohydrate-rich food and increase consumption which often lead to weight gain or obesity (Sharma & Kavuru, 2010). 2. Good sleep means healthy immune system Studies have shown that sleep supports immune system functions therefore, long-term sleep deprivation will have a negative effect on your immune system. In a study by Cohen et. al., it was found that those who have poor sleep quality, and... read more

Sleep Apnea Devices

There are a number of devices that can be used to help treat your sleep apnea. Choosing the right device depends on the type and severity of your sleep apnea. You should consult with your sleep specialist to help assess which device will be right for you. CPAP Machines Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machines are devices that help anyone who has obstructive sleep apnea to breathe without difficulty while sleeping. The machine works to create a positive air pressure in your throat so when you breath in, your airway does not collapse. This is the most common and preferred treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. What to Expect using CPAP machines CPAP machines have been shown to reduce daytime sleepiness and lower blood pressure in those with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Some patients have reported dry nose and throat while using this treatment. You may also experience some gastric bloating or irritation of the skin on your face. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your CPAP machine may not be properly set up and you need to consult your doctor or one of our sleep experts. Coastal Sleep has an array of CPAP machines to help with your sleep apnea. Please see our Product Pages to find the best fit for you. Sleep Apnea Masks Sleep masks are used with CPAP machines to deliver consistent and continuous airway pressure while you sleep. There are many different types of masks available that vary in size, shape, and style. Picking a mask to work for You Everyone has a different face shape and needs so you may... read more

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

A number of medical treatments can be used to treat your sleep apnea and you should consult your doctor to find the treatment that will work best for you. What treatment should be used will depend on the type and severity of your sleep apnea. Mouthpieces If you have a mild sleep apnea a mouthpiece, also sometimes called an oral appliance, may be the proper solution for you. A dentist or orthodontist can make a custom fit appliance that helps keep your lower jaw and tongue positioned to keep your airway open. You may need to visit your doctor periodically to get adjustments to the mouthpiece so that it will fit better. CPAP Treatment Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is a common treatment for sleep apnea, especially in moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP is a machine hooked up to a mask that provides a consistent stream of airflow that keeps your airways open while you sleep and ensures you are getting enough oxygen. It is important that your CPAP machine is correctly set for your comfort. If it is incorrectly set, you may experience some bloating or discomfort wearing the mask. Some people have reported having headaches, dry mouth, irritated skin on the face, or a dry or stuffy nose. If you are experiencing any of these effects, speak with your doctor about tuning the machine to reduce these discomforts. This technology is being updated all the time so if you have tried this treatment in the past and was unsatisfied with it, consult with your doctor and our sleep experts about the new... read more

How to Treat Snoring and Apnea

You should always consult your doctor about your plans to treat your sleep apnea to ensure it will be the most effective for your specific type and severity of the condition. There are a number of lifestyle changes that make help treat your condition: Quit smoking. Smoking can increase the inflammation and fluid retention in your upper airway. Do not use sedatives to sleep. Consuming alcohol, sleeping medications, or other sedatives can relax the throat muscles and close your airways. Resist caffeine and heavy meals before bed. Consuming caffeine or eating a big meal within two hours before bed can place extra strain on your system. Consistent sleep schedule. Keeping a steady sleep schedule will reduce the episodes of apnea, particularly when you are getting enough sleep. Sleep on your side. Try to avoid sleeping on your back as gravity increases the chance of your soft tissues dropping to obstruct your airway Prop your head up. Raise the head of your bed by approximately 4 to 6 inches to help keep your airway open Keep your nasal passages open. Help relieve allergies or nasal blockages with breathing strips, nasal sprays, or a saline spray.   Throat Exercises to Reduce Snoring Stronger throat muscles may help reduce the severity of snoring.  Try these exercises to strengthen the muscles and keep them from collapsing Hold your tongue flat against the bottom of your mouth and brush the top and sides with a toothbrush. Do this brushing movement 5 times and repeat it 3 times a day. Hold your tongue to the roof of your mouth for 3 minutes a day Place... read more

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep apnea comes with an array of symptoms that can impact you. These symptoms can have an impact on your life as a whole and not just your ability to get a good night’s sleep. If you, or someone you love, experience the following symptoms it may be time to consult a doctor to see if you have sleep apnea: Frequent and loud snoring Gasping or choking while you sleep A pause in breathing during sleep Headaches, particularly in the morning Insomnia Difficulty staying awake during the day Sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening Change in mood, such as an increase in irritability or depression Troubles with your memory or learning of new skills Unable to concentrate Waking up often to use the bathroom throughout the... read more

Sleep Apnea Prevention

Sleep apnea is not a sleep disorder you want in your life. Do what you can to prevent the development of by following a few simple rules: Eat sensibly, stay healthy. Keeping yourself in a fit and healthy state will keep a number of illnesses from developing. Sleep apnea can be caused by extra weight around the neck closing the airways so be sure to stay fit to reduce this risk. Quit smoking. Nicotine in cigarettes causes the muscles that keep your airway open to relax. If you do not smoke, these airways are less likely to collapse while you sleep Don’t ingest sedatives before bed. Try to avoid having alcohol or any sleep sedative before bed. They can slow your breathing and relax your throat... read more

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

If you suspect that you or someone you love has sleep apnea, it is time to visit your doctor. Your doctor will base the diagnosis on your family history, a physical exam, and sleep study results. It is important to see your doctor about any concerns that impact your sleep and feeling of wellness. You should not be trying any sleep apnea treatments without consulting your doctor first. Going to Your Doctor Prior to seeing your doctor, you may wish to consider keeping a sleep journal for 1 to 2 weeks prior to the appointment. Write down what time you go to bed, how many times you woke through the night, what time you woke up and how rested you feel. You may also wish to note any naps you take or any periods of time where you noticed you may have nodded off. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a sample journal along with some other useful information. Once you are at the appointment, show your sleep diary to your doctor and answer any questions they may have for you. Be sure to include any information you have about sleep disorders within your family. Your doctor will also check your nose, throat, and mouth for any swelling or extra tissue. Adults may have an enlarged soft palate or uvula, the soft tissue that hangs at the back of your mouth. What to Expect from a Sleep Study Sleep studies are conducted to examine how your body responds to sleep issues and how well you slept. The sleep test may be conducted in a sleep lab or... read more

How Common Is Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a lot more common that you may realize, especially since it often goes undiagnosed. 1 in 15 people have moderate to severe OSA (Young et al. JAMA 2004) 9% women and 25% men in the middle-aged working population have OSA (Marshall et al. Sleep 2008) Sleep apnea is as common as diabetes and asthma. Most OSA sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated. 50% of patients with Type II Diabetes have OSA 35% of patients with high blood pressure have OSA 6 Why are so many people not getting diagnosed? Sleep apnea symptoms can, such as depression, are often treated without looking for the underlying cause. Since sleep apnea has a number of symptoms that may be illnesses in their own right or overlap with other disorder symptoms, it can fail to be recognized and properly treated.... read more

Dangers & Seriousness of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is an illness that needs to be taken seriously. It impacts more than your ability to get a good night sleep. Long term effects can be severe if it is left untreated. Studies have shown that those with sleep apnea were three times more likely to die sooner than those who did not have it or received treatment. Long Term Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea The consequences of sleep apnea range from both annoying to life threatening. Symptoms range from depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, increased weight gain to learning and memory difficulties. You may find yourself falling asleep at work, on the phone or even while driving. In fact, untreated sleep apnea patients are 3 times more likely to have automobile accidents. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause any one of these conditions: Weight gain. Increased fat deposits around the neck can increase your risk of sleep apnea but if you already have sleep apnea it can lead to additional weight gain. Sleep apnea impairs your body’s endocrine system. This disruption causes the release of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave sweets and carbohydrates. High blood pressure. When you’re sleep is constantly interrupted, it places your body in a fight or flight mode that causes your blood pressure to spike. Over time this leads to a consistent higher blood pressure Heart disease. Sleep apnea causes a lower amount of oxygen to be in your bloodstream. This impacts brain function and ability to regulate the flow of blood. Atrial fibrillation – heartbeat rhythm problems – is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea. These issues cause people... read more

The Three Types of Sleep Apnea

What Kinds of Sleep Apnea are There? There are three types of sleep apnea, obstructive, central, and complex. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, it is caused by the muscles of the your throat relaxing while sleep. When this occurs, the muscles provide less support to the tonsils, the uvula (the triangular piece of tissue that hangs from your soft palate), and the side walls of the throat. When these areas get less support, it narrows your airway and you can’t get an adequate breath in. If you have central sleep apnea, your brain is not sending the correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This causes you to have shallow breathing or to stop breathing for intervals of time.  This type of apnea is more common after a stroke, with heart disease, or with narcotic or sedative use. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the obstructive and central forms. Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea Anyone can get sleep apnea including women, men, and children. There are a number of things that do increase your risk of sleep apnea such as: Age. Sleep apnea tends to be more common in adults older than 60 Excess weight. Thin people develop sleep apnea as well but anyone who has excess fat around the upper airway is at increased risk of having their breathing obstructed Neck thickness. Anyone who has a thicker neck tends to have a narrower airway, making it easier to become blocked Narrowed Airway. If you have inherited a naturally narrow throat or your tonsils or adenoids are enlarged, this can block your airway Smoking. Anyone... read more