What is Apnea?

According to the Canadian Lung Association :

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious breathing problem that interrupts your sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) means you have short pauses in your breathing when you sleep. These breathing pauses – called apneas or apnea events – last for 10 to 30 seconds, maybe longer. People with obstructive sleep apnea can stop breathing dozens or hundreds of times each night leading to sleep disruption and low levels of oxygen.
Obstructive sleep apnea stops you from having the restful sleep you need to stay healthy. If it’s not treated, sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness, and reduced cognitive function. People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and early death. Thankfully, there are excellent treatments for obstructive sleep apnea.”


Normal, open airway


Partially closed airway


Closed airway during an apnea

Who is at risk?

Patients suffering from the following conditions may be at risk for OSA:

  • Overweight
  • Snoring
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of sleep apnea or snoring
  • Over 40 years of age
  • Recessed chin (your chin tucks in).
  • Increased collar size (>17.5″ in men, >15.5″ around in women)
  • Small upper airway (large tongue, recessed chin, excess tissue in the throat and/or soft palate)

Factors which may make snoring and apnea worse on a given night:

  • Sleeping on the back
  • Alcohol at bedtime
  • Sleeping pills or narcotic (sedating) pain pills at bedtime


How common is sleep apnea? (Canadian Lung Association)

  • 1 of every 5 adults has at least a mild form of sleep apnea (20%)
  • 1 of every 15 adults has at least moderate sleep apnea (6.6%)
  • 2-3% of children are likely to have sleep apnea
  • Over 1 in 4 (26%) Canadian adults have a high risk of having or developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Signs and Symptoms

First thing in the morning:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed

During the day:

  • Low energy
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Low libido
  • Cognitive issues (memory, focus)

In the nighttime:

  • Getting up frequently to go to the bathroom
  • Occasional gasping for air
  • Snoring and snorting awake witnessed by others
  • Restless sleep
  • Night sweats

How can I be diagnosed?

Obstructive sleep apnea can be easily diagnosed with a home sleep test.

What are the possible consequences of untreated sleep apnea?

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Car accidents (patients are 6 times more likely to have a car accident)
  • Work-related accidents
  • Poor quality of life
  • Decreased intellectual functioning
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunction

Montreal Sleep Center – Specialists in the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea.