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Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts while sleeping. The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the flow of air into the lungs.


The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring.

  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person.

  • Gasping for air during sleep.

  • Awakening with a dry mouth.

  • Frequent morning headache.

  • Difficulty staying asleep

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

  • Difficulty paying attention while awake.

  • Irritability.

Loud snoring can indicate a potentially serious problem, but not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Talk to Dr. Ousley if you have symptoms of sleep apnea.


Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate called the uvula, the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.

When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. When this happens you can't get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your body senses that you are struggling to breathe, and briefly wakes you up. This happens so quickly that you usually don't remember it happening. You might snort, choke or gasp and this cycle can repeat itself all night. This makes it hard to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep that your body needs.

Factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea include:

Excess weight. Obesity greatly increases the risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Extra fat around your upper airway can interrupt your breathing.

  • A narrowed airway. You might have a narrow throat. With the use of our CBCT machine, Dr. Ousley is able to peek at your airway.

  • Being older. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in older adults.

  • Family history. Having family members with sleep apnea might increase your risk.

  • Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These relax the muscles in your throat, which can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Smoking. Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation in the upper airway.

  • Nasal congestion. If you have trouble breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you're more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Medical conditions. Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are some of the conditions that may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, prior stroke and chronic lung diseases such as asthma also can increase risk.


Once you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the most common way to treat it is with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). At Better Sleep Oklahoma, our goal is to help you get the good night’s rest you deserve. Which is why we offer a variety of Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) devices to custom fit each patient. Only 25% of CPAP patients are continuing to use the machine after a year. The OAT device is very effective in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea with a compliance rate as high as 90% over a two and a half year period. Once you receive your OAT device, we will then retest your sleeping patterns to ensure you are having a reduction in sleep apnea episodes. Regular follow-up appointments are made to check the OAT device and the patient’s results. If you are interested in oral appliance sleep therapy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, contact us at 405-755-4450 today! Our dentist and team will be happy to assist you.


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