Sleep apnea can be a serious sleep disorder, causing more than just a bad night’s sleep or loud snoring. The main aspect of sleep apnea is one’s breathing stopping and restarting many times throughout the night.


There are two main types of sleep apnea that occur separately, but it is possible to simultaneously have both types. These include:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Central Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This type of sleep apnea is the more common cause, occurring when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and narrow the airway. Those muscles support the uvula, tonsils, and side wall of the throat and tongue so when they relax, those walls will close in around the airway. When your brain senses that you are not getting enough air, you will very briefly wake up without remembering it and may gasp or choke. This can occur up to 30 times an hour throughout the night, greatly impacting your quality of sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea

This is the less common type of sleep apnea but has similarly negative effects; you are more likely at risk if you are an older male, have a heart disorder, or have had a stroke. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, no attempt is made to breathe because the brain simply fails to send signals to the respiratory muscles. You may wake up briefly with short breaths and have difficulty falling or staying asleep.


If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to many other health problems and significant impacts on one’s life. Some conditions caused by sleep apnea include heart failure, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, and cardiomyopathy, or the enlargement of the heart. Additionally, the sleepiness and lack of attention span resulting from sleep apnea can impair one’s ability to work, drive, or attend school.


If you think you have sleep apnea, a diagnosis can be made with a sleep study. By wearing a small monitor while you sleep, we can measure breathing, respiratory effort, electrocardiogram, hard rate, oxygen levels, eye and muscle movements, and brain activity. Other tests such as a brain scan or echocardiogram can also be done to determine whether other health problems are contributing to your sleep apnea.

Depending on the underlying causes of your sleep apnea, various treatments can be used, including oral appliances, a CPAP, or surgery. To target the sleep apnea specifically, a UPPP surgery can be performed to remove excess tissue at the back of the throat. Without the excess tissue, those muscles will be unable to relax into the airway, leaving your breathing unobstructed. If your sleep apnea is caused by obesity, surgery may be performed to first treat the obesity, which may alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea.