Sleep Apnea:
  (aap nee ya)   [Latin in = not, plus somnus = sleep] a cessation of breathing during sleep that lasts for 10 or more seconds. followed by snoring or gasping for air. Because lapses in breathing only occur during sleep, people with this disorder are usually not aware of their problem until a bed partner or other observer points it out.


    Those with untreated Sleep Apnea have little chance of sleeping well. Each lapse in breath, called an apneic event, lasts long enough to cause a drop in blood-oxygen levels, which disturbs sleep. Such episodes may occur several times per hour throughout the night.
      A blockage of the airway, usually involving the soft tissue around the back of the throat, causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA, the most common type of sleep apnea. The blockage itself may be attributed to a large neck size, enlarged tonsils, or a structural abnormality. Central sleep apnea or CSA occurs when the brain fails to signal respiratory muscles to breathe, sometimes as a result of brain damage or neurological disease. CSA is far less common than OSA. Mixed sleep apnea , a combination of the first two, tends to develop in those with a long history of obstructive sleep apnea.


        All types of sleep apnea may be clearly identified by a test called a Polysomnography or Sleep Study, which records several bodily functions, including: respiratory and heart rates, the electrical activity of the brain, muscular activity, eye movement, and even blood-oxygen levels. Although polysomnographies are usually performed in an accredited sleep laboratory, portable equipment allows some studies to be conducted in the patient's home.


      Treatment, of course, depends on the type, degree, and even quality of sleep apnea. Surgery to repair certain structural abnormalities such as enlarged tonsils/ adenoids or a recessed jaw may reduce or eliminate OSA, in some cases. By far the most common and effective treatment involves mechanical therapy through the nightly use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to aid with breathing during sleep. The CPAP machine or a variation of it blows air through  a mask worn over the nose, forcing the airway open.   Behavioral Therapy such as weight loss and Good Sleep Habits  accompanies CPAP therapy, or may be all that is needed to treat mild OSA. Finally, dental devices (including a mandibular advancement appliance) and other small appliances may be enough to open the airway.


A CPAP machine
to aid with breathing
during sleep. Both CPAP and
Bi-PAP machines may be used by
children and adults to treat the

symptoms of Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea Mechanics

      A structural or mechanical problem blocks the flow of air in those with OSA. Airway tissues relax during sleep, making them vulnerable to weight or pressure from blockages. In overweight people, excess tissue around the neck narrows the airway. Enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or throat muscles may sag enough in some people to block the airway.
    Whether the airway is physically blocked as in OSA or the brain fails tosignal breathing as in CSA, the result is the same: a pause in breathing, which reduces oxygen. Less oxygen equals more carbon dioxide and a signal from the brain to initiate breathing.

Suggested Downlaods

Sleep-Breathing Disorders
Home Sleep Test
Sleep Apnea