Sleep Apnea, and How to Overcome It

Learn the Facts First


There are several types of sleep apnea including obstructive, central and mixed subtypes. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) accounts for 90% of cases, and implies complete or partial collapse of the upper airway, while central sleep apnea is not associated with upper airway obstruction at all. Regardless of the type of sleep apnea, the patient experiences repeated bouts of apnea or cessation of breathing, associated with fragmented sleep, and repeated episodes of reduced oxygen level and elevated carbon dioxide. Over time, sleep apnea damages the cardiovascular system and, especially if severe, it may precipitate a stroke, heart attack, or sudden death in the setting of a compromised cardiovascular system. 

No need to panic, but let's take a closer look at what you just learned:  

  • 90% of sleep apnea sufferers are totally unaware of it and fail to seek help. Up to 4% of males and 2% of females have sleep apnea. A third of people suffer from at least mild obstructive sleep apnea. 

  • Most physicians not trained in the field of sleep medicine are not aware of the health-related risks of untreated sleep apnea. 20% of myocardial infarctions (MIs) and 15% of sudden death occur during the period of midnight to 6:00 am. This translates to about 300,000 nocturnal (MIs), and 48,750 nocturnal sudden deaths in the United States each year.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is associated not only with increased myocardial infarctions, but also with increased risk of strokes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, increased risk of cancers, increased risk of all cause-mortality, diminished immune function, and Alzheimer disease.

OSA Can Affect Every Organ System in Your Body


  • Pulmonary: COPD, overlap syndrome (COPD/OSA), pulmonary hypertension, asthma, Arterial BG abnormalities
  • Cardiovascular: Arrythmias, angina, myocardial infarction, sudden death, metabolic syndrome.
  • GI: Gerd, vasculopathy, steatosis and others,
  • Endocrine: diabetes, obesity, infertility, impotence and erectile dysfunction.
  • OB/GYN: eclampsia, gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth retardation, and other obstetrics complications, including post op complications. 
  • Neurology: Transient ischemic strokes or tias, cerebral vascular infarctions, multi infarct dementia as well as lower the threshold for seizures.
  • Increased post op complications, IUGR (intra uterine growth retardation)

Attention Referring Physicians


  • Rheumatology/Orthopedist: osteoarthritis (obesity leading to OSA)
  • Urology: Nocturia (blood in the urine), erectile dysfunction and infertility? Cancers
  • Ophthalmologists may be first to diagnose diabetic retinopathy and refer for a sleep study.
  • Vascular Surgeons, especially in context of diabetic vasculopathy, should consider a sleep study referral.
  • Psychiatrists/Psychologists: depression/bipolar not responding to antidepressants, worsening depression (SSRIS). Sometimes OSA symptoms (overlap) is misdiagnosed for depression.
  • Dentists: may be first to refer for a sleep study due to craniofacial risk factors.
  • Podiatrist taking care of diabetics should consider a sleep study if not yet performed.
  • Pediatricians: ADHD, poor school performance, behavioral issues, growth retardation.