What Is Sleep Apnea and How Is It Treated?

What Is Sleep Apnea and How Is It Treated?

A diagnosis is made after a detailed exam and either an overnight sleep study or a home sleep test. The sleep study, or nocturnal polysomnography, involves going to a sleep center or hospital for several hours or overnight. A polysomnography technician runs special sensors to a cap that you wear while you sleep. These sensors measure heart rate, lung activity, and brain wave patterns. The technician usually monitors the equipment in real-time as you sleep in the next room.

The home test involves a similar setup but is less involved. If the home test results are inconclusive, you may still need to have a test done in a sleep center or hospital.


There is a wide range of treatment methods available for those with sleep apnea. You and your doctor can best decide which will work best for you.

Your doctor may prescribe a machine such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) that forces air into your lungs opening the airway, or an automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) which has two levels of airflow. A bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) allows for low-pressure airflow during a patient's exhalation cycle. The BiPAP can also be set to a specific breath-per-minute rate.

Oral appliances can also be used to treat sleep apnea. They are ideal for people with mild obstructive sleep apnea and for some that find machines cumbersome and uncomfortable.

In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove excess tissue in the throat and soft palate.

There is no permanent cure for sleep apnea. But there are many treatment methods available to manage symptoms, making it possible for you to get the deep, restorative sleep your body needs.

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