ZocdocAnswersHow is sleep apnea treated?

Question

How is sleep apnea treated?

Pretty sure I have sleep apnea. I wake up at night kind of choking and sometimes I feel like I have stopped breathing altogether. Is this sleep apnea? How is it treated?

Answer

I am sorry that you have been experiencing these episodes during your sleep. It must be frightening to awake with a choking sensation. It is likely that you have sleep apnea. You should follow up with your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms and possible management including referral to a sleep medicine specialist. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that involves the pause or decrease in airflow despite persistent breathing effort. This can be associated with excessive daytime sleepiness and other sings of poor sleeping like snoring and restlessness. The prevalence of OSA is about 20% in the general population, so it is a fairly common diagnosis. This usually occurs because of a decrease in airway size while sleeping as the airway musculature relaxes. So, while your brain is telling your body to take a breath, your airway has partial or complete collapse and does not allow air to pass. Snoring and choking like episodes are attempts your body makes to keep your airway open. There are various different treatments for OSA ranging from machines that give you positive pressure while sleeping, called CPAP, which help keep your airway open to surgery. Since there can be various components to the cause of OSA, you should follow up with your primary care physician for a full discussion of your symptoms, physical exam specifically looking at your tonsils and airway anatomy, and possible referral to either an ear-nose-throat specialist or a sleep specialist for a possible sleep study.

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