Trouble sleeping? Ways to treat Sleep Apnea

By Robin Edwards, PTA · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Sleep Apnea ... ZZZZZZZZ

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing, during sleep. Each pause of breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur five to 30 or more times in an hour. Similarly, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram or “sleep study” (

A person that has sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. It is usually the sleeping partner that is aware of the issue due to observation of snoring, gasping of air or combination of the two.

Symptoms you may notice include:

• Excess daytime sleepiness.

• Waking up in the morning not feeling refreshed, trouble with memory, concentration and or feeling tired.

• Morning or night headaches.

• Heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth at night.

• Swelling of the legs.

• Sweating and chest pain while you are asleep.

Symptoms others may notice include:

• Episodes of not breathing, which may occur as few as five times an hour (mild apnea) to more than 50 times an hour (severe apnea).

• Loud snoring. Almost all people that have sleep apnea snore; however not everyone that snores has sleep apnea.

• Restless tossing and turning in the night.

• Nighttime choking or gasping spells.

Symptoms in children:

Children who have sleep apnea nearly always snore; however they might not appear excessively tired in the day

• In children younger than 5 years old, symptoms may include mouth breathing, sweating, restlessness or waking up a lot.

• In children five years and older, other symptoms include bed wetting, doing poorly in school or not growing as quickly as they should for their age. They may also have behavior problems and a short attention span.


CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Presure) Machines: These machines are designed to keep a flow of pressurized air going into the throat to keep the passage open. There are several designs of the mask used to accommodate different face structures. Some people get along well with the face mask and machine and others do not. When a person struggles with the face mask and can not adjust, there is another option.

Oral appliances: Dentists that specialize in sleep disorders can prescribe a custom-made mouthpiece that shifts the lower jaw forward, opening up the airway. OAT (Oral Appliance Therapy) is usually successful in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Information about OAT can be found through your regular dentist or online.

Surgery: There are different surgeries available for sleep apnea; however these are only used for severe cases and people that can not tolerate using the CPAP or APAP machine. These surgeries will not be discussed in this article. More information can be found through your dentist or an ears, nose or throat specialist.

Sleep apnea is a dangerous problem and should be addressed. If you know someone that fits the description of someone having sleep apnea, please convince them to see their doctor.

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