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Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea

is also called obstructive sleep apnea. It is a condition that causes you to stop breathing for 10 seconds or more while you are sleeping. During normal sleep, your throat is kept open by muscles that let air pass through easily. Sleep apnea causes the muscles and tissues around your throat to relax and block air from passing through. Sleep apnea may happen many times while you are asleep.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • No signs of breathing for 10 seconds or more while you sleep
  • Snoring loudly, snorting, gasping or choking while you sleep, and waking up suddenly because of these
  • A hard time thinking, remembering things, or focusing on your tasks the following day
  • Headache or nausea
  • Bedwetting or waking up often during the night to urinate
  • Feeling sleepy, slow, and tired during the day

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel tired or depressed.
  • You have trouble staying awake during the day.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for sleep apnea

includes using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep your airway open during sleep. A mask is placed over your nose and mouth, or just your nose. The mask is hooked to the CPAP machine that blows a gentle stream of air into the mask when you breathe. This helps keep your airway open so you can breathe more regularly. Extra oxygen may be given to you through the machine. You may be given a mouth device. It looks like a mouth guard or dental retainer and stops your tongue and mouth tissues from blocking your throat while you sleep. Surgery may be needed to remove extra tissues that block your mouth, throat, or nose.

Manage sleep apnea:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take sedative medicine before you go to sleep. Alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles and tissues around your throat. This can block the airflow to your lungs.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess tissue around your throat may restrict your breathing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need to lose weight.
  • Sleep on your side or use pillows designed to prevent sleep apnea. This prevents your tongue or other tissues from blocking your throat. You can also raise the head of your bed.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Sleep Apnea (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference