What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which people stop breathing while they’re sleeping. The pause may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. In patients who have obstructive sleep apnea, the pause in breathing is caused by the throat muscles. They temporarily relax and block the airway.

What Symptoms Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Cause?

Patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea may exhibit a variety of symptoms. Some common symptoms include:

  • loud snoring
  • pauses in breathing while sleeping
  • waking up abruptly, often with gasping or choking
  • high blood pressure
  • decreased libido

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

As a medical condition, obstructive sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a qualified medical provider. When diagnosing patients, doctors will often:

  • ask a patient about their symptoms
  • examine the throat, nose, and mouth
  • perform a sleep study
  • have a patient complete at-home testing

Is At-Home Testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Covered by Insurance?

Since obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition, many health insurance policies provide full or partial coverage for at-home testing that’s used to diagnose the condition. Because specific coverages differ among plans, however, patients should contact their insurance provider to find out whether their particular plan provides coverage for at-home testing.

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated?

There are several ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Depending on a patient’s particular symptoms and test results, a doctor might recommend any of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and exercising more
  • Using CPAP equipment at night
  • Getting a mouthpiece to wear when sleeping
  • Surgery

Surgery is usually reserved as a final option since it’s the most invasive treatment. In most cases, another treatment is successful and sufficient, and surgery isn’t necessary.