Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Treatment

Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Treatment

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder, causing those affected to periodically stop breathing while asleep. Only 20% of the 18 million Americans with sleep apnea have been diagnosed and treated for the disease.

Common Symptoms

Adults with sleep apnea are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Dry mouth or headaches in the morning
  • Problems concentrating during the day
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Irritability
  • Decreased libido

Symptoms of sleep apnea vary in men, women and children. Women are more likely to report depression, headache, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia. In children, symptoms may include bedwetting, problems with academic performance, hyperactivity or an increase in asthma symptoms.

Some common signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring and visible changes in breathing pattern. These signs are typically observed during a sleep study that leads to diagnosis.


Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, the patient will work with their doctor to develop a treatment plan based on specifics of the diagnosis.

A breathing device, such as a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, is a commonly recommended treatment option.

Those with mild sleep apnea may be prescribed a mouthpiece to wear while sleeping. The mouthpiece helps hold a patient’s jaw and/or tongue in place to prevent obstruction of the airway. Orofacial therapy also could help improve the tongue’s positioning and strengthen facial muscles.

If a patient’s sleep apnea is severe and doesn’t respond to other treatment, surgery may be required. Possible surgical procedures may be performed on the tonsils, jaw or trachea, depending on the cause of the sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Changes

Along with other treatment options, your doctor may also ask you to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. This includes minimizing the intake of alcohol and cigarettes, making heart-healthy eating choices and exercising regularly.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to depression and heart disease, so it is important to consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea.

PCCMA performs sleep studies at its in-house sleep lab and sleep labs affiliated with Geisinger Holy Spirit and UPMC Pinnacle. To schedule an appointment, please call us at (717) 234-2561 or complete our online appointment form.

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