Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

  • Excessive sleepiness during the daytime
  • Waking up abruptly, perhaps with a loud snort or choking feeling
  • Insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)
  • Waking up in the morning with a sore throat or dry mouth
  • Waking up in the morning with a headache

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may be able to make a diagnosis based on symptoms.

You might also be referred to a sleep specialist. If so, you most likely will go through tests (in the specialist's sleep clinic or at home). While you are sleeping, the tests measure:

  • Oxygen level in your blood
  • Heart, lung and brain activity
  • Breathing patterns
  • As well as arm and leg movements

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

If your sleep apnea is mild, your healthcare provider may first suggest:

  • Losing weight. Diet and exercise are often a first step to controlling sleep apnea.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking.

If your obstructive sleep apnea is moderate to severe, your healthcare provider may treat you with:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)—A CPAP machine delivers a consistent level of air pressure to your lungs while you sleep, through a mask that covers your nose while you are sleeping. The pressure keeps your airways open to prevent pauses in breathing and snoring.
  • Adjustable airway pressure—These machines deliver air pressure that varies as you inhale and exhale throughout your sleep.
  • Surgery—Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to remove extra tissue from your throat or nose that is blocking your airways and causing snoring; to remove tonsils or adenoids; or to repair nasal passages.

If you are diagnosed with central or complex sleep apnea, your healthcare provider may treat you with:

  • CPAP
  • Adjustable airway pressure
  • Oxygen
  • Specific treatments for medical problems that cause central sleep apnea, such as heart disease.
  • Adaptive servo-ventilation—This computer-based device adjusts pressure while you sleep based on your recorded breathing and sleep patterns.

In depth resources for sleep apnea