Diagnosing & Treating Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep. It is potentially serious and it usually leaves a person feeling tired even after a full night of sleep. There are three main types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Diagnosis and treatment will help ease your symptoms and help prevent health complications, including heart conditions.


Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Some symptoms can indicate that you have sleep apnea. The symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring.
  • Stopping breathing or gasping for air during sleep. 
  • Morning headaches.
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping. 
  • Hypersomnia or daytime sleepiness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty paying attention during the day. 

It is important to realize that you may have sleep apnea even if you do not snore.   



The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea and it is caused by relaxation of the throat muscles. The muscles at the back of the throat support the palate, uvula, tonsils, tongue, and throat sidewalls. When these muscles relax, the airway closes or narrows when you breathe in. This means that you do not get enough air, which can reduce the oxygen level in the blood. 

The brain recognizes your inability to breathe and will rouse you briefly so that you reopen your airway. The brief awakening can be repeated between five to over 30 times each hour all night. The less common central sleep apnea results from the brain failing to send information to the breathing muscles.


Diagnosing the Condition

To make a diagnosis, the doctor will evaluate the patient’s signs and symptoms as well as sleep history. The information can be provided with help from your sleep partner or someone who shares your room. The doctor may refer you to a sleep disorder specialist who will further evaluate your condition. 

Overnight monitoring of your breathing and body functions as you sleep will be conducted at a sleep center. During diagnosis, the nocturnal polysomnography test monitors breathing patterns, brain, heart, and lung activity, limb movements, and oxygen levels. This test is conducted while the patient sleeps. Home sleep testing may also be used.



If the results from the diagnosis show that you have sleep apnea, the doctor will recommend treatment. Several treatment options are depending on the severity of your condition. For mild cases, the doctor can recommend lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight. Treating nasal allergies can also help. 

If lifestyle changes fail to help or to improve symptoms, doctors will recommend other treatments. If you have moderate to severe apnea, doctors can recommend the use of devices that help to open blocked airways. Therapies available include using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and wearing oral appliances to keep the throat open.


Treating Medical Problems

In some cases, treating sleep apnea involves treating the underlying medical condition. Central sleep apnea can be caused by neuromuscular disorders or heart conditions. Treating the conditions can help to reduce symptoms of sleep apnea. 

For more on sleep apnea, visit Smile Center at our offices in Delaware or Sunbury, Ohio. You can call 740-417-9565 or 740-965-2451 today to book an appointment.