Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. It occurs when tissues in the upper airways come too close to each other during sleep, temporarily blocking the inflow of air.
Who Is At Risk
Obstructive sleep apnea can develop in anyone at any age but most often occurs in people who are:
- Age 40 and older
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Impaired emotional or mental functioning
Patients with sleep apnea may find these lifestyle changes helpful:
- Sleep on your side, not your back. Special pillows can help maintain this position.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Do not drink alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime.
- If you are overweight, reduce. Even a small amount of weight loss may improve sleep apnea symptoms.
The treatment of obstructive sleep apnea depends in part on the severity of the condition. Treatment options include:
- Dental devices. Dental devices, also called oral appliances, are custom-made mouthpieces that help position the lower jaw and tongue during sleep. Dental devices may be helpful for mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Breathing devices. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices are the most common treatment for moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea. Although these devices can take some time to get used to, they are a very effective treatment.
- Surgery. Various surgical procedures may be recommended for very severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
Review Date: 06/11/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.