If you are a loud snorer, if you have disturbed sleep, if you wake up feeling very tired despite a full night’s sleep then you could very well be one of the millions who suffers from Sleep Apnea (SA), but don’t know it! This is said to be a serious  sleep disorder in which breathing actually stops and restarts, and this happens repeatedly. It certainly sounds immensely alarming, but believe it or not, over 100 million the world over are said to be suffering from this disorder. Waking up with a dry mouth, getting startled in the midst of deep sleep, gasping for breath, and waking up with a headache are common symptoms. 

You might tend to snort, choke, or gasp. This pattern can be excessively repetitive making it quite difficult to enjoy the deep restful sleep that we all yearn for.  Untreated sleep apnea has a devastating and disheartening impact on those who suffer from this condition. Apart from the constant fatigue and irritation of a sleep-deprived person, other physical conditions such as heart disease and depression can develop. Basic lack of sleep puts the person at great risk of accidents at work and while driving. Loud snoring is indicative of a  potentially serious problem, but ironically, not everyone who has sleep apnea actually snores. Just waking up tired, excessively sleepy and being irritable may be tell-tale symptoms.  

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): is the more common disorder, and this is when the throat muscles relax inordinately. When the muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes as we breathe in. We can’t take in enough air, and that tends to lower the oxygen level in our blood. The brain senses our inability to breathe and briefly gives a “wake up call” , like an alarm, wakes us up from sleep so that we can reopen the airway. All this seems surreal, but this awakening is usually so brief that we don’t remember it. An individual may not know that they have sleep apnea, but a sleeping partner or other household member may notice it and can let them know.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This means that you actually make no effort to breathe, for a brief period of time, as the message has failed to come. You might wake up abruptly, short of breath, or have a difficult time staying asleep, even if you do fall off to sleep.

The most complex condition, however, is when someone has both the conditions, obstructive and central.


Anyone who feels persistently tired or groggy during the day should consult a medical provider to find out why and take steps to address the problem.

The medical provider may start by asking :

  • What is your typical sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends?
  • How long does it take you to fall asleep?
  • Are you taking any medications to help you sleep?
  • How much sleep do you think you get each night?
  • Has anyone told you that you snore?
  • Do you wake up with a feeling of panic or jolt awake?
  • How do you feel when you wake up?
  • Do you fall asleep while watching television or reading?
  • Does anyone in your immediate family have a diagnosed sleep disorder?
  • What is your sleep environment like?


Sleep apnea may increase the risk of :

  • asthma symptoms
  • atrial fibrillation
  • cancer
  • chronic kidney disease
  • inability to focus, memory problems, and other cognitive functions
  • dementia
  • cardiovascular problems due to a reduced oxygen supply
  • stroke
  • pregnancy complications
  • eye disorders 

Managing Sleep Apnea

SA may not be a curable affliction but it is certainly manageable. Factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea include:

  • Obesity
  • Thick necks and thus narrow airways
  • Congenital condition of a narrow throat
  • A Family trait
  • Airway being blocked by tonsils or adenoids
  • Men are two or three times more prone to this condition
  • Excessive use of alcohol and sedatives 
  • Smoking
    Chronic nasal congestion or chronic sinus infections
  • Medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.


Sleep apnea may not be curable but it is certainly manageable. Treatment aims to normalize breathing during sleep and address any underlying health problems. The options will depend on the cause and severity of symptoms.

To begin with, a SA patient needs to modify his or her lifestyle which are essential to help normalize breathing. There is nothing special or out of the ordinary that is required. These factors are in any case ideal for anyone who wishes to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep!

  • Manage weight
  • Healthy, non-fatty and light meals, especially the last meal of the day.
  • Relaxed mind and positive thoughts before going to bed.
  • Sleep on the side.
  • Medical options

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy

This is the main treatment for SA. The CPAP provides a constant stream of positive pressure air through a mask, and thus ensures uninterrupted breathing. The continuous positive airway pressure ensures airway pressure ventilation in which a constant level of pressure greater than the atmospheric pressure is continuously applied to the upper respiratory tract of a person. It provides a steady flow of oxygen into your nose and mouth as you sleep. This keeps your airways open and helps you breathe normally.

After the initial discomfort and period of adjustment this equipment brings long-lasting relief. Some people initially have trouble using the CPAP and consequently stop the treatment before achieving or realising any lasting benefit. But for those who are ready to make this adjustment, they enjoy very deep and restful sleep.


Surgery can widen the airway in people with OSA. Surgery can stiffen or shrink obstructing tissue, or remove excess tissue or enlarged tonsils.

Mandibular repositioning device (MRD)

A custom-made appliance that is suitable for individuals with mild or moderate OSA. The mouthpiece holds the jaw in a forward position during sleep to expand the space behind the tongue. This helps keep the upper airway open, prevents SA and snoring. This however is found to be quite uncomfortable by many users. Long-term use has been said to be =harmful to the jaw. 


Some drugs may help with CSA but should only be used after consultation with a sleep specialist as these are known to have severe adverse effects. 


Sleep apnea is a common problem that causes people’s breathing to pause during sleep. It can lead to fatigue and difficulty in focusing, and it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Often a person does not know they have sleep apnea, but someone who lives with them will notice.

Anyone who experiences the symptoms described here, must not ignore the condition. It is essential to find out if you are one of the millions with the condition of sleep apnea and take corrective measures at the very earliest. Take the essential steps and begin to enjoy the comforts of deep and uninterrupted sleep!