What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interrupts breathing multiple times a night. These pauses can last from 5 to 20 seconds and can happen up to 100 times an hour! An apneic episode jolts the patient awake, so they are unable to remember it. However, these regular disruptions cause lack of a deep, restorative sleep leading to many health problems and low productivity.

If left untreated, it can have chronic effects such as cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and diabetes – all due to deprivation of oxygen. Therefore, finding a specialist to treat this life-threatening condition in time is crucial.

Essentially, there are two types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea – the more common of the two, OSA occurs as a repetitive upper airway blockage during sleep, forcing the intercostal (chest) muscles and diaphragm to work harder. This increases pressure, and breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp or jerk.

Central sleep apnea – In such a case, the brain fails to signal the muscles to operate and breathe. This is experienced due to instability in the respiratory control system, making it more of a neurological problem.


Since most prominent symptoms occur during sleep, they are not recognized by the patient. However, a bed partner can check for the following signs of sleep apnea:

  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Sudden awakenings with a gasp
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Mood disturbances (depression or anxiety)
  • Night sweats
  • Frequent nighttime urination

Often, people mistakenly report a case of obstructive sleep apnea as a sudden awakening or even insomnia. This is why patients need to consult with a specialist immediately. Luckily, Mississippi‘s finest, Dr. Robert H. Thornton, and his team bring you experts for the best treatment of sleep apnea.


Determined through the sleep schedule and symptoms, our doctors will suggest a sleep evaluation. Following are the two kinds:

Polysomnogram (PSG) – this overnight sleep exam is performed in a sleep laboratory under a trained specialist for this treatment. Here, we’ll carry out different tests to track multiple bodily functions. These include eye movements, brain and muscle activity, airflow, and blood-oxygen levels. Upon completion, the patient’s sleep apnea is graded and treated accordingly.

Home sleep test (HST) – being less advanced than PSG, this test can be done from home. But, it records fewer functions – breathing effort or airflow. Bear in mind that HST is solely recommended for people with mild symptoms of sleep apnea.


There are multiple treatments, depending upon the severity and type of sleep apnea, including:

Conservative – this includes making lifestyle changes; losing weight for instance. Being overweight is a major cause in adults, hence losing some of it can reduce the number of apneic episodes you experience. People with sinuses should always use breathing strips and nasal sprays to improve breathing. Similarly, limiting the use of alcohol, sleeping pills, and other sedatives might help too.

Mechanical – PAP (positive airway pressure) therapy is considered the most effective and is recommended for patients with mild to severe OSA. It involves a PAP device that is installed over your mouth and nose. The machine gently flows air through the nosepiece/mask to deliver a steady stream as you sleep. The continuous pressure keeps the airways open, preventing blockages and pauses in breathing.

Oral – Dental or mandibular advancement devices work by bringing your lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep. This mouth guard for sleep apnea keeps the air passages open while you’re asleep, allowing steady breathing.

Some OSA patients go through surgeries; however, those are only performed in cases of excessive blockage due to tissue or bone malformation. With a complete evaluation, our specialist for sleep apnea will be able to determine the kind of treatment you need.


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Thursday: 8:00 am – 3:30pm