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Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing many times during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common of the three.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway is blocked either partly or completely during sleep. During an apnea episode, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder as the pressure increases to open the airway. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp or body jerk. These episodes can interfere with sound sleep, reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs, and cause heart rhythm problems.

In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control center. Central apnea is related to the function of the central nervous system and not treated by oral appliance therapy.

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Who gets obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in about 25 percent of men and nearly 10 percent of women. Obstructive sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, including babies and children and particularly people over the age of forty and those who are overweight. Certain physical traits and clinical features are common in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. These include excessive weight, large neck, and structural abnormalities reducing the diameter of the upper airway, such as nasal obstruction, a low-hanging soft palate, enlarged tonsils, or a small jaw with an overbite.

What causes obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses during sleep. Central sleep apnea is usually observed in patients with central nervous system dysfunction, such as those who have had a stroke or who have neuromuscular diseases. It is also common in patients with heart failure and other forms of cardiac and pulmonary disease.

What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

Often the first signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are recognized not by the patient, but by the bed partner. Many of those affected have no sleep complaints. The most common symptoms of OSA include:

  • Snoring

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

  • Restlessness during sleep

  • Sudden awakenings with a sensation of gasping or choking

  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening

  • Intellectual impairment, such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, or irritability

  • Night sweats

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Headaches

Symptoms in children may not be as obvious and include:

  • Poor school performance

  • Sluggishness or sleepiness, often misinterpreted as laziness in the classroom

  • Daytime mouth breathing and swallowing difficulty

  • Inward movement of the ribcage when inhaling

  • Unusual sleeping positions, such as sleeping on the hands and knees, or with the neck hyper-extended

  • Excessive sweating at night

  • Learning and behavioral disorders

  • Bedwetting

What are the effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the muscle tissue of the heart), congestive heart failure, diabetes, and heart attacks. In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment, work-related accidents, and motor vehicle crashes as well as academic underachievement in children and adolescents.

Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe. Nearly everyone snores now and then, but for some people it can be a chronic problem. Sometimes it may also indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner.

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring.


Snoring is often associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Not all snorers have OSA, but if snoring is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication to see a doctor for further evaluation for OSA:

· Witnessed breathing pauses during sleep

· Excessive daytime sleepiness

· Difficulty concentrating

· Morning headaches

· Sore throat upon awakening

· Restless sleep

· Gasping or choking at night

· High blood pressure

· Chest pain at night

· Your snoring is so loud it's disrupting your partner's sleep

· In children, poor attention span, behavioral issues, or poor performance in school

OSA often is characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops or nearly stops. Eventually, this reduction or pause in breathing may signal you to wake up, and you may awaken with a loud snort or gasping sound.

You may sleep lightly due to disrupted sleep. This pattern of breathing pauses may be repeated many times during the night.

People with obstructive sleep apnea usually experience periods when breathing slows or stops at least five times during every hour of sleep.


If you’ve ever wondered how to go about finding relief from chronic snoring, you might be surprised to learn that the answer might be found at your dentist’s office. The factors that usually cause snoring, as well as the related condition, obstructive sleep apnea, can often be addressed with a custom oral appliance provided by Dr. Gupta


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