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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops for brief periods of time while a person is sleeping. These episodes of interrupted breathing last anywhere from 10-30 seconds at a time, and may occur up to 20-30 times per hour. Over the course of a single night’s sleep, this can mean up to 400 episodes of interrupted breathing. Over 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and the majority of these people are overweight.1

Normal Upper Airway During Sleep
Normal Upper Airway During Sleep
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Every time you stop breathing, you interfere with the normal patterns of deep sleep. Without realizing it, sleep apnea sufferers awaken regularly in order to resume breathing. Sleep apnea is one cause of insomnia, because quality of sleep is seriously impaired. This results in severe daytime sleepiness, road safety...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop sleep apnea with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing sleep apnea. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for sleep apnea include:


Heavy smokers —people who smoke more than two packs per day—are 40 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers.


Some studies have shown that people who use alcohol regularly have an increased risk of sleep apnea.

Sedative Medications

Using sedative medications can increase your risk of sleep...

The actual symptoms of sleep apnea when it’s occurring are:

  • Very loud snoring
  • Episodes of long pauses of interrupted breathing during sleep
  • Possibly struggling, snorting, gasping, choking, and partially or completely awakening in an attempt to restart breathing

Symptoms that occur as a result of these episodes of sleep apnea include:

  • Disturbed rest
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Problems staying alert or paying attention
  • Irritability
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty learning
  • Decreased energy
  • Headache
  • Sexual problems
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Confusion
  • Increased risk of sudden...

If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea, you will need a thorough examination of your mouth, nose, throat, and neck to make sure that there are no problems with those tissues or structures.

Your doctor will ask you about sleep habits—if you snore and if your bed partner witnesses that you stop breathing. You will also be asked about daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and if you easily fall asleep. The doctor may complete a screening form such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS).

There are two tests that can help in the diagnosis of sleep apnea: the polysomnogram and the multiple sleep latency test. A sleep specialist usually administers both of these tests in an overnight sleep laboratory.

Polysomnogram Test (Sleep Study)

For this test, you spend the night...

There are a few things you can do to lower your risk of sleep apnea. These include:

Maintain an Appropriate Weight

Obesity is the number one risk factor for sleep apnea. If you are overweight, you may be able to prevent the development of sleep apnea by talking to your doctor about a weight loss program. If you’re not overweight, try to maintain an appropriate weight through proper diet and exercise.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol can increase the number of sleep apnea episodes you have each night. Therefore, limit your intake of alcohol.

Avoid Taking Sedative Medications

Sedative medications can exacerbate sleep apnea. Try to avoid use of these medications.

Don't Smoke

Heavy smokers are 40 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers....

American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine


2510 North Frontage Road Darien, IL 60561


Description of Services Provided

The AADSM promotes research on the use of oral appliances and dental surgery for the treatment of sleep disordered breathing. Their website provides a search function for dentists by zip code who are accredited by the academy, which can be found here:

They provide the same service for finding a sleep lab, where you can get a polysomnograph to diagnose sleep apnea. It can be found here:

American Sleep Apnea Association (ASNA)


6856 Eastern Avenue, NW, Suite 203
Washington, DC 20012 ...

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