The odds are good that either you or someone close to you suffers from some kind of sleep apnea. While this sleep disorder can seem irritating but fairly harmless at first, if left unchecked, it can lead to serious medical consequences down the road.

That’s why, unbeknownst to so many people, early spotting, diagnosis, and treatment for sleep apnea is so vital. In this article, we’ll explore how to identify sleep apnea, why early diagnosis is so important, and examine some common treatments. 

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder where the body’s natural breathing patterns are interrupted, and breathing pauses entirely at regular intervals during sleep. This disorder of normal breathing and interruption of healthy sleep can lead to feeling unrested in the mornings, headaches, and irritability. However, if left untreated for long enough, it can have much more serious effects on one’s health.

There are three different types of sleep apnea a person can suffer from:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

In these cases, breathing is interrupted due to some kind of physical obstruction to the sleeper’s airways. OSA tends to stem from genetic or physical issues we are born with. However, the range of possible culprits is extensive and can also be caused by:

  • Basic physical features such as a narrow throat or large tongue
  • Genetic factors and certain heritable genes
  • Other medical issues, such as a cleft palate

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, is caused when important electrical signals from the brain are interrupted. Without these “instructions” from the brain, muscles in the throat stop functioning correctly for brief periods, causing pauses in normal breathing. This kind of sleep apnea tends to develop from more intentional choices, including smoking, diet, exercise, and even sleeping habits and positions.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea is less common than the other two and occurs when a person suffers from a combination of central and obstructive interruptions in their breathing.

The Importance of Early Detection of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is often under or late diagnosed as it’s easy to mistake as symptoms of other ailments. Symptoms in the early stages of sleep apnea are frustrating but can feel low-stakes enough that many people don’t take them seriously. And, of course, it’s hard to notice issues with how you sleep unless someone else can point them out to you.

But if sleep apnea is left untreated for long periods of time, it can lead to much more dire consequences, including a heightened risk of heart disease or strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Not to mention the less direct side effects of serious headaches and being tired and irritable can have on a person’s social and professional life. 

First Steps: Symptoms, Screening, & Diagnosis 

The first step in treating sleep apnea is, of course, noticing and diagnosing it.

Spotting Symptoms

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Excessive sleepiness or tiredness
  • Consistent irritability and mood swings
  • Morning headaches
  • Trouble focusing on or remembering things
  • Restlessness and wakefulness at night
  • Loud and persistent snoring.

Official Diagnosis

If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you should strongly consider looking into an official diagnosis for sleep apnea to see what actions you should take next. There are a few steps that are common to the diagnosis process:

Initial Evaluation & Physical Exam

The first steps involve an interview with a doctor to gather all the possible relevant data about the topic: medical history, questions about lifestyle, and noting any symptoms the patient might be suffering from.

The interview is almost always accompanied by a physical exam to note other possible contributing factors, such as obesity and physical traits that could lead to airway blockages.

Sleep Monitoring

While not always necessary, diagnosis usually involves monitoring the patient’s sleep, which can be done with an in-lab sleep study or at-home monitoring. The former is often preferable, as a clinical sleep study will rigorously gather all relevant data, such as oxygen levels, eye movement, muscle activity, sleep stages, brain activity, and more.

At-home tests are usually reserved for those with potentially severe cases of OSA and no other serious health issues. They typically monitor oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns.


Treatment for sleep apnea can often vary dramatically from patient to patient, depending on what’s causing the issue. However, most cases will involve using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine while sleeping to help regulate oxygen flow.

Depending on the cause, other possible treatments include using special medical appliances to adjust sleeping or mouth position or lifestyle changes such as altering diet or exercise habits. When those solutions aren’t enough, some patients will need to resort to surgical intervention to solve structural issues causing problems with breathing. 

Seeking Treatment at DreamZz Sleep Center: The Sooner, the Better 

If there’s one thing we hope we’ve made clear, it’s the importance of seeking diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea in a timely manner to avoid health complications later in life.

If you’re interested in learning more about sleep apnea and live in the Seattle area, there’s no better choice than DreamZz Sleep Center for peace of mind and ease of breathing at night.

Contact us today to learn how we can help make your sleep healthier and more rested.