What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Apnea comes from the Greek word Apnoia, meaning “absence of breath”. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep disordered breathing and occurs when the upper airways is temporarily blocked during sleep, preventing air from entering the lungs. This results in shallow breathing or pauses called apneas or apnea events. This condition disrupts sleep, causing patients to move out of a deep restful stage and in some cases, wake up. This poor quality sleep leaves patients chronically sleep deprived and leads to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.


Who is at risk?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea can affect anyone, with most people not realizing they suffer from this condition until someone else notices the symptoms. And while Obstructive Sleep Apnea is often associated with snoring, not all patients present this symptom.  Please take our Sleep Survey to see if you may be at risk of having obstructive sleep apnea.


What are the signs and symptoms?

  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable
  • Snoring
  • Gasping/choking while sleeping
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory issues

What are the effects of sleep apnea?

If left undiagnosed, sleep apnea puts you at an increased risk of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Deteriorating memory and concentration
  • Motor vehicle accidents

In order to reduce the effects of sleep disordered breathing, it is often recommended that patients:

  • Lose weight, as it can decrease the size of your neck, reducing extra tissue that may block the airway.
  • Avoid alcohol and sedatives, as they may over-relax your throat muscles.
  • Sleep on your side, avoid sleeping on your back. Sleeping on one’s back may cause the tongue and throat tissue to relax, narrowing the upper airway.

The first and best treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP therapy. A CPAP machine is a medical device that provides a steady stream of air into a patient’s nose and throat, preventing collapse or restriction. Refer to our Equipment page to find out more.

Other treatments include: making lifestyle choices such as losing weight or avoiding alcohol, surgery and oral appliances.

How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea treated?


Sleep hygiene is a term used to mean good sleeping habits and practices. Here are the ones we recommend.

  • Avoid napping during the day. It can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep quality as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be performed in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
  • AVOID HAVING LARGE MEALS close to bedtime. Dietary changes can also cause sleep problems. And remember, chocolate has caffeine.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake
  • cycle.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
  • Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.

What is Sleep Hygiene?