What is Sleep Apnea?

What is sleep apnea?

Beep… beep… beep! Your alarm blares as another morning is already here. It came so quickly, maybe you felt like you only slept for a moment, or maybe you wonder how you’re still so tired after going to bed on time to get enough rest. Maybe this is something a cup of coffee will fix. Or maybe, it’s sleep apnea. But, what is sleep apnea (also spelt sleep apnoea) and what can you do about it?

Putting an End to Sleep Apnea

Many people need to realise that they’re more than just tired.  Millions of people are suffering from sleep apnea and 80% of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed. This means millions of people are putting their health at risk every day.

When left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to serious conditions such as:

  • Increased traffic accidents
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Depression
  • Obesity

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to suddenly stop multiple times during the night. As a result, your body becomes stressed and works to restore airflow. Your chest might heave, your blood pressure might rise, and you could toss and turn, all of which can be exhausting and prevent you from receiving the rest your body needs to physically and mentally recover from daily stressors.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the tissues around your neck and throat collapse, blocking your airways.  This is similar to, but more severe than, the causes of snoring.
  • Central Sleep Apnea occurs when the signal from your brain to keep breathing gets lost or mixed up during sleep.  This form is much less common than OSA.

One major issue with sleep apnea, is the fact that it happens during your sleep, meaning you can experience the symptoms without noticing them, unless your partner tells you. However, if you are suffering from this disorder you may experience some of the following sleep apnea symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Waking with a headache or dry mouth
  • Waking up due to coughing or gasping for air
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings or feeling irritable
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Memory issues
  • Insomnia


Also, the following risk factors increase your chances of developing sleep apnea:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • Being over 40 years old
  • Having a narrow or thin neck
  • Having a neck circumference of 43cm or greater (40.5cm or greater for women)
  • A genetic history of sleep apnea
  • Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or small jaw
  • A nasal obstruction due to allergies, sinus issues, or a deviated septum

If you have at least two of the sleep apnea symptoms speak with your doctor about potentially having sleep apnea. You may need a test, which consists of taking a sleep study in a lab or using a home sleep test to measure the number of sleep disturbances or apneas you experience during the night.  With an at-home study, you’ll send your results back to a lab so a qualified sleep clinician can measure your results.

If you test positive, sometimes sleep apnea treatments will get rid of the disorder, however, in most cases sleep apnea can only be managed.


Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

There are a variety of ways to manage sleep apnea, consult with your doctor to build the best treatment plan to suit your individual needs.  We have outlined some of the treatment options below:

Moderate lifestyle changes – You can treat sleep apnea symptoms with a few simple changes to your routine in order to live healthier. Try to moderately exercise about three times a week, replace empty carbs and refined sugar with whole grains, protein, fruits, and veggies. Also, put down the soda and other sugary beverages such as blended coffee or juices. Water and herbal tea will help you stay hydrated and alert.

Surgery – In some cases, surgery can clear up sleep apnea issues when the cause is related to a deviated septum or other physiological blockages.

Avoid drug use – Quit smoking and don’t drink too many alcoholic beverages close to bedtime. Alcohol can cause your airway muscles to relax and disrupts your sleeping cycles. Also, avoid using allergy medications that cause drowsiness and sleeping pills.

Use A CPAP – A CPAP (Continous Positive Airway Pressure) device is the most successful sleep apnea treatment method. It delivers a steady stream of air through a mask in order to keep your airways open during the night. This way your body is able to receive the necessary oxygen for proper rest.

Many people feel as if their CPAP machine gives them their lives back, as early as the first week of use. Suddenly getting up is easier, concentrating on driving or work becomes less of a struggle, and suddenly they have the energy to work out again and even to stay awake during their favorite shows in the evening.

Please note:  This article is not to be used as medical advice.  Please consult a medical professional before using any sleep treatments.  If you think you may have Sleep Apnea visit your doctor as soon as possible.  This post may contain affiliate links.

Author profile
Alex Deckard
Alex Deckard
Healthcare Marketer
Alex works at Aeroflow Healthcare, a durable medical equipment supplier. When he’s not helping others find health solutions online, he’s trying to get outside with wife, two children, and pooch.
4 replies
  1. Erma says:

    I have had OSA for many years. It really has a devastating impact on my life and sleep. thank you for writing this article and raising awareness.


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