Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are several different types of sleep apnea. One of the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your breathing is repeatedly obstructed or restricted for periods of 10 seconds or longer during sleep. Untreated, OSA may raise your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart arrhythmia or insulin resistance.

Drawings of side view of heads showing obstructed airway and normal airway

Sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, based in part on the number of times each hour that you stop breathing.

At the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center, our multidisciplinary team of neurologists, dentists, oral surgeons, otolaryngologists, pediatricians, pulmonologists and psychiatrists can help to diagnose sleep apnea and, in most cases, offer an effective treatment with mechanical, dental, or surgical approaches adapted to your particular needs.

Causes

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs because your airway is blocked. OSA is more likely to occur if you are overweight, use certain medicines or alcohol before bed, or sleep on your back.

Symptoms

If you have some of the following symptoms or problems, you may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and should be seen by a sleep medicine physician:

  • Frequent, loud snoring
  • A bed partner who says you stop breathing during your sleep
  • Waking up from sleep with a loud snort, or feeling short of breath
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Chronic fatigue, tiredness, or lack of energy
  • Headaches that wake you up, or appear when you wake up in the morning
  • Restless sleep
  • Feeling hot and sweaty at night
  • Getting up to urinate more than once on an average night

Other medical conditions in which obstructive sleep apnea is particularly common:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Epilepsy

Diagnosis

To diagnose sleep apnea, we perform an overnight study, either a sleep study called a polysomnogram (PSG) in the sleep laboratory, or a home sleep apnea test. The PSG records your brainwaves, eye movements, muscle tone, breathing patterns, oxygen levels and other body functions. The home sleep apnea test focuses mainly on breathing patterns and oxygen levels and may suffice for many patients. However, depending on the equipment used, it does not record sleep, or does not record it as accurately as would testing in a sleep laboratory.

Depending on your medical history and oral, nose and throat anatomy, we may also monitor your carbon-dioxide levels or esophageal pressure.

The information recorded during the sleep study charts your breathing patterns during different sleep stages and sleep positions. A specialized sleep technologist then examines your recording to score it, and one of the sleep medicine physicians interprets the results.

Treatment Options

CPAP Treatment

CPAP Treatment: The standard treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP, which involves wearing a mask on your face while you sleep. The mask conducts pressurized air through your nose, or through your nose and mouth, to your throat. The added pressure in your throat then keeps it from collapsing while you sleep, so you can breathe normally. Using CPAP is like wearing glasses, it doesn't change your condition but it helps to control it. CPAP therapy is highly effective if used properly every night.

Alternatives to CPAP Treatment

Oral appliance: For patients who cannot tolerate CPAP, an oral appliance to hold your jaw forward may be a good treatment option. We can evaluate you for an oral appliance through our Alternatives to CPAP Clinic. To learn more about the oral appliance for CPAP, visit our Non-Surgical or Dental Alternatives to CPAP page.

Surgery: After surgery, you may no longer need CPAP or an oral appliance. The options will depend on your preferences, sleep study findings, oral and throat anatomy, and likelihood of success. To learn more about sleep apnea surgery, visit our Surgical Alternatives to CPAP page.

Next Steps

Please call 734-936-9068 to schedule a clinic visit.

We will need a referral from your physician before your appointment. We look forward to helping you resolve your sleep issues.