Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices, and surgery.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep, which can disrupt the quality of sleep and lead to various health issues. 


Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, which causes a temporary blockage. This blockage can result in a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood and may disrupt the normal sleep cycle. The brain senses the lack of oxygen and briefly wakes the person up to reopen the airway, often without the person being aware of it. These frequent awakenings can lead to fragmented and poor-quality sleep, leaving the individual feeling tired and fatigued during the day.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea: 


  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing or shallow breathing. The blockage is usually caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the throat, which causes the soft tissue to collapse and obstruct the airway.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): Central sleep apnea is less common and involves a failure of the brain to transmit proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. In this type, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, which results in pauses in breathing. Central sleep apnea is often associated with underlying medical conditions, such as heart failure, stroke or neurological disorders.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome (CompSA): Also known as mixed sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea syndrome is a less common form of sleep apnea that’s a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Initially, it may start as obstructive sleep apnea, but when a patient receives continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, central sleep apnea may emerge or worsen. 

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The symptoms of sleep apnea can vary from person to person, but some common signs include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability and waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on one’s overall health, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Factors That Contribute to Sleep Apnea

Several factors can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Obesity is a significant risk factor, as excess weight can lead to the narrowing of the airway. Age, gender (men are more prone to sleep apnea), family history, smoking, alcohol consumption and certain medical conditions, such as nasal congestion, allergies and hormonal disorders, can also increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have sleep apnea, it is crucial to seek medical evaluation and diagnosis. A sleep study, either conducted at a sleep center or through a home sleep test, can help determine the presence and severity of sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Phoenix

Treatment options for sleep apnea depend on the severity of the condition. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, and sleeping on your side, can sometimes alleviate mild cases. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep, which delivers a continuous flow of air to keep the airway open.


Other alternatives include: oral appliances that help keep the airway open; positional therapy, which encourages sleeping in specific positions to prevent airway blockage; and surgery, for cases where physical abnormalities obstruct the airway.


Sleep apnea can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life and overall health if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing sleep apnea effectively. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, consult with a healthcare professional at one of our Phoenix area clinics to determine the best course of action.

Phoenix Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment

Optima Medical Sleep Apnea Program

Like many common health conditions, most primary care providers will give you a referral to see a sleep specialist. This requires approval from your insurance, waiting on the referral to be processed and scheduling an appointment with an unfamiliar provider / office.

Optima Medical’s Sleep Apnea Program aims to keep your circle of care within the same office, by thoroughly evaluating and treating your sleep apnea. The program is simple and uses the following five-step approach:

  • Initial comprehensive evaluation, as well as subsequent ongoing evaluation and diagnosis
  • Review of detailed medical history, associated symptoms and social behaviors
  • Comprehensive bloodwork evaluation
  • At-home sleep study
  • Initial recommendations after sleep study 
  • Maintenance quarterly
  • Results review
  • Reevaluation of interventions post-diagnosis
  • Resources, including respiratory therapist

Sleep Apnea FAQS

Q: How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

A: Sleep apnea is typically diagnosed through a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography. This test involves monitoring various aspects of your sleep, including brain activity, heart rate, breathing patterns and oxygen levels. It can be conducted at a sleep center or even at home with portable monitoring devices.


Q: What are the potential health risks associated with untreated sleep apnea?

A: Untreated sleep apnea can lead to several health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and an increased risk of accidents due to excessive daytime sleepiness. It is important to seek treatment to reduce these risks.


Q: What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?

A: Treatment options for sleep apnea may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and avoiding alcohol and sedatives, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances and, in some cases, surgery. The specific treatment recommended will depend on the severity and underlying causes of the sleep apnea.


Q: Can sleep apnea affect children?

A: Yes, sleep apnea can affect children. Common signs in children may include snoring, restless sleep, bedwetting, daytime sleepiness and behavioral problems. Pediatric sleep apnea can often be caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids and can be treated with surgical removal of the blockage or the use of CPAP therapy.

Book an appointment now

Our sleep apnea in Phoenix team at Optima Medical is ready to help you find out if you have sleep apnea. Find an Optima Medical location near you, and make an appointment for a sleep apnea evaluation.