Sleep Apnea

Understanding Sleep Apnea: From Diagnosis to Treatment

Sleep apnea, a common yet often overlooked sleep disorder, can have significant impacts on your health and well-being. This detailed guide explores the various types of sleep apnea, including obstructive and central sleep apnea, their symptoms, and the latest advancements in treatment options. Learn how to effectively manage and treat sleep apnea to improve your sleep quality and overall health.”

Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

The National Institute of Health defines it as “A common condition in which your breathing stops and restarts many times while you sleep. This can prevent your body from getting enough oxygen”.

Let’s Explore Two Types of Sleep Apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Causes: OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat relax excessively during sleep, leading to a physical blockage of the airway. This is often associated with snoring.

Symptoms: Loud snoring, observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, morning headache, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating.


  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): The most common treatment for OSA, where a machine delivers air pressure through a mask to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Two common CPAP options: Resmed AirSense and Philips Dreamstation lines.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Weight loss, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and sleeping on one’s side.
  • Oral Appliances: Pure Sleep and Z Quiet are a couple of good examples of ways to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Surgery: Procedures like Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Maxillomandibular Advancement, or others, in severe cases.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Causes: CSA is caused by a failure of the brain to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing, leading to periods of no breathing effort.

Symptoms: Episodes of no breathing or abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, chronic fatigue, morning headaches, mood changes, and snoring (though less common than in OSA).


  • Treating Underlying Conditions: Addressing heart or neuromuscular disorders that may be causing CSA.
  • Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV): A device that adjusts air pressure based on the detection of breathing abnormalities.
  • Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP): Provides varying levels of air pressure depending on whether the patient is inhaling or exhaling. These are also available from Resmed and Philips
  • Supplemental Oxygen: In some cases, additional oxygen may be required.
Sleep Apnea

Innovative Treatments – The Inspire Sleep Apnea Implant:

The Inspire Sleep Apnea Implant is a medical device designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. This device is typically considered for patients who have moderate to severe OSA and have not found relief from traditional treatments like Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. Here’s an overview of how it works and some key aspects:

  1. How It Works: The Inspire system consists of a small implant placed under the skin in the upper chest. It includes a stimulation lead positioned near the hypoglossal nerve, which controls tongue movement. The device is controlled by a small handheld remote. When activated, it delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve during sleep, which in turn keeps the airway open by moving the tongue and other soft tissues out of the way.
  2. Implantation Procedure: The implantation of the Inspire device is typically done under general anesthesia and is considered a minimally invasive surgical procedure. It involves making a few small incisions to place the device components.
  3. Eligibility Criteria: Not everyone with sleep apnea is a candidate for the Inspire implant. Patients usually undergo a thorough evaluation, which may include a sleep study, an examination of the airway, and an assessment of their overall health. Factors such as body mass index (BMI), anatomy of the airway, and the severity of sleep apnea are considered.
  4. Effectiveness: Clinical studies have shown that the Inspire implant can significantly reduce sleep apnea events for many patients, improving the quality of sleep and reducing the associated health risks of untreated sleep apnea.
  5. Adjustments and Control: Patients can turn the device on before they go to bed and off when they wake up using the handheld remote. The device’s settings can be adjusted by healthcare providers to optimize therapy.
  6. Safety and Side Effects: As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved. Common side effects may include discomfort or pain at the implant site, tongue or throat weakness, and temporary change in voice or tongue movement. Long-term complications are rare but can occur.
  7. Lifestyle Considerations: The Inspire system is designed to be a long-term solution for sleep apnea. Patients with the implant can generally lead normal lives but may have restrictions on certain activities, such as undergoing MRI scans, depending on the type of MRI machine.
  8. Insurance and Cost: The cost of the Inspire therapy, including the surgery and device, can be significant. However, it is covered by many insurance providers, including Medicare, for patients who meet specific criteria.

The Inspire Sleep Apnea Implant represents a significant advancement in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, offering an alternative for those who cannot tolerate or benefit from CPAP therapy. As with any medical treatment, patients need to discuss this with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of action based on their individual needs and circumstances.

Comparing traditional treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with the Inspire implant involves looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Here’s an overview:

Let’s figure out what’s best for you.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

  • Pros:
    • Effectiveness: Widely effective for varying degrees of OSA.
    • Non-Invasive: Does not require surgery.
    • Immediate Results: Can be effective from the first use.
    • Data Tracking: Many CPAP machines provide data on sleep patterns and effectiveness.
  • Cons:
    • Discomfort and Compliance: Some patients find wearing the mask uncomfortable and may have difficulty adjusting to it.
    • Portability Issues: Traveling with the machine can be cumbersome.
    • Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance of the equipment are required.

Oral Appliances

  • Pros:
    • Comfort: Generally more comfortable and easier to use than CPAP.
    • Portability: More convenient for travel.
    • Quiet: No noise from a machine.
  • Cons:
    • Effectiveness: It may not be as effective as CPAP for moderate to severe OSA.
    • Dental Issues: Potential for dental discomfort or changes in bite alignment.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Pros:
    • Holistic Approach: Benefits overall health and well-being.
    • No Side Effects: Non-invasive and no equipment required.
  • Cons:
    • Varied Effectiveness: May not sufficiently address moderate to severe OSA.
    • Requires Discipline: Success depends on the individual’s ability to adhere to lifestyle changes.

Inspire Sleep Apnea Implant


  • Effectiveness: Particularly beneficial for patients who are unable to tolerate CPAP.
  • User-Friendly: Controlled with a remote and does not require wearing a mask or oral appliance.
  • Discreet: Entirely internal, with no external equipment needed during sleep.
  • Improved Comfort and Sleep Quality: Many patients report a more natural sleep experience than CPAP.


  • Invasiveness: Requires surgical implantation.
  • Cost and Insurance Coverage: This can be expensive; insurance coverage varies.
  • Battery Replacement: The device may require battery replacement via surgery every few years.
  • Not Suitable for Everyone: Specific criteria for patient eligibility, are not suitable for all cases of OSA.

In conclusion, while CPAP therapy and other traditional methods remain the standard and effective treatment for OSA, Inspire offers a viable alternative for those who cannot tolerate or do not benefit from these methods. The choice between traditional treatments and Inspire should be based on individual patient needs, preferences, severity of OSA, and medical advice.

Living with Sleep Apnea:

After years of snoring like a chainsaw and sleeping in a chair for months. I was afraid of the mere thought of being stuck with a mask for the rest of my life, but enough was enough. It was time for the Sleep Apnea Study. About an hour into the night, the techs put a mask on me and when I woke, it was the best sleep I had in months. I had a pretty severe case of CSA.

I have lived with the mask for 10 years or so and it’s not as bad as NOT SLEEPING. You have to keep your equipment clean. The straps are important because they can irritate your skin and cause pimple-like irritations when not cleaned. Clean your tank, mask, and hose regularly, and change your mask every month as the new ones are foam and will begin leaking in good time.

As research advances, so too does our understanding of sleep apnea and its impact on health. Emerging treatments and technologies promise to enhance care and offer hope to those affected. Yet, the cornerstone of managing sleep apnea remains a proactive approach: seeking evaluation for symptoms, adhering to prescribed treatments, and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers. If you are suffering, get a better night’s sleep. Talk to your doctor about getting tested and get back to living again.

Sleep Apnea