About Sleep Apnea

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.

Types of Sleep Apnea

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.

Dr. Steven Wilk is a three-time board certified D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) based in Denver, CO. He is known for his use of oral appliance therapy to effectively treat sleep apnea and snoring as an alternative to CPAP. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University, he attended…

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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.


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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.


I was using a CPAP machine( which was very cumbersome ), until I visited Dr. Wilk two years ago, he fit me with a mouth appliance to substitute the CPAP machine. I was very skeptical at the beginning but it worked great with no discomfort, now I sleep and feel better, and when I travel I just take a small mouth guard case, so much more convenient. I highly recommend Dr. Wilk for his services, he and his staff are very professional and also very nice.

Dr. Wilk and his staff are very professional and “cutting edge” in their field. My examination was more thorough than any I had had before, and the care I received was excellent. In addition to regular dental work, I had veneers done. They have changed my smile, whitened my teeth, and greatly improved my self-confidence. I would recommend this practice to anyone looking for exceptional dental care.

I was completely satisfied with the professionalism and work of Dr. Wilk and his staff. My husband is very happy that I no longer wake and worry him with my sleep apnea. The appliance Dr. Wilk recommended works very well, even after a year of nightly use. I just had my first annual checkup and the appliance still fits perfectly and is in excellent condition.

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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.

Schedule a Consultation

To receive your diagnosis and learn more about a treatment plan for sleep apnea, schedule a consultation with Dr. Wilk at the Denver Sleep Apnea Center today.


What causes sleep apnea?

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, and is caused by the throat muscles and the soft tissues in the back of the throat including the tongue relaxing too much during sleep, causing recurring blockage of the airway. Your brain notices you are not getting enough oxygen and wakes you from the deep sleep stage your body needs to a lighter stage.

What Are The Different Types Of Sleep Apnea?

There are three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive (OSA), Central (CSA), and combination of both. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common and occurs when the airway is physically blocked by the tongue, tonsils, or excess neck tissue sleep apnea. Central (CSA) occurs when the brain does not signal the body to inhale and exhale, and some people suffer from a combination of the two forms of sleep apnea.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?

Common symptoms include snoring, frequent breaks in breathing or gasping, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, morning headaches, restless sleep, depression, irritability, frequent nighttime urination, and acid reflux.

What Is A Sleep Disorder?

A sleep disorder is a health condition that prevents you from getting enough sleep, or good quality sleep. It can cause a range of health problems, both mental and physical. It also impacts a person’s relationships, finances, and the workplace. Sleep disorders are common, with 10 to 20 percent of all people complaining to their doctor about sleep issues.

How common is sleep apnea?

It is estimated that 22 million people in the US suffer from sleep apnea. As many as 80% of cases of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as other ailments.

How is sleep apnea treated?

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea. The machine forces continuous airflow through your nose to prevent the airway from collapsing when muscles relax during sleep. Unfortunately, many wearers do not or cannot tolerate the machine for various reasons.nnOral appliance therapy - A custom-fit oral device available through Denver Sleep Apnea Center is a highly effective, non-invasive option for sufferers of snoring and sleep apnea, The device fits similar to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouthguard is comfortable, quiet, and easily portable for travel.nnSurgery - Surgery is performed to remove or reposition the tissues in the throat to reduce blockage of the airway. There is also implantation of an electrical device to stimulate the airway muscles.

What's the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Snoring is caused by vibration in the throat, nose, or sinuses as we breathe air in and out during sleep. Snoring is caused by a number of factors including illness, injury to the nasal passage, and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing for ten or more seconds at a time. A common cause of snoring is the blocking of the airway common with patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Not all patients who snore have sleep apnea and vice versa.

Does Loud Snoring Mean I Have Sleep Apnea?

Snoring is a very common condition often not very serious and not all of them have sleep apnea. If snoring occurs habitually or loudly it can disrupt sleep patterns and affect the quality of sleep. Loud chronic snoring has been shown to increase the likelihood of blood clot development in the carotid arteries.

What are the risks of untreated snoring?

Snoring can cause strain on the heart, leading to coronary conditions including high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. Snoring can also cause low oxygen levels in your blood, which can lead to pulmonary hypertension.

How to stop snoring?

Lifestyle changes such as decreasing alcohol and tobacco use, regular exercise, and losing weight can help reduce snoring. There are also a variety of over-the-counter treatment options available--nasal sprays or inserts may provide temporary relief. If snoring persists, the best thing to do is see a sleep specialist to determine the cause.

Could snoring be a symptom of a greater sleep issue?

Occasional snoring may not be a sign of underlying problems. Frequent snoring, on the other hand, may be a symptom of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder defined by periodic pauses of breathing while asleep.