Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation (pause of breathing, airflow) during sleep. OSA is a fairly common, but very serious condition. When a person with this syndrome falls asleep, the airway collapses and disrupts normal breathing patterns. This can occur hundreds of times throughout the night, putting a great amount of stress on the vital organs like the heart, lungs as well as interrupting normal sleep cycles. An apnea is a period of time during which breathing stops or is markedly reduced. In simplified terms, an apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more.

Warning Signs of OSA

  • Loud snoring is one of the most obvious indicators that OSA may be a problem, especially if the snoring is accompanied by pauses and gasps for air. This suggests tha the person has momentarily stopped breathing, or his/her breathing has become shallow enough to cause sleep disruption.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness is also a warning sign. The brief awakenings at night can cause a person to fall asleep throughout the day, particularly if the OSA is severe. Falling asleep at work, on socially unappropriate situations, or while driving are just a few examples of how this syndrome can have a dramatic effect on quality of life.
  • Other signs include trouble concentrating during the day, irritability, morning headaches, or nausea upon awakening, and frequent urinations at night.

Indicators of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Snoring
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating, irritability
  • Morning Headaches
  • Frequent nighttime urination


OSA is characterized by repetitive episodes of complete (apnea) or partial upper airway obstruction occurring during sleep. These events often result in reductions in blood oxygen saturation and are usually terminated by brief arousals from sleep.

If you have any symptoms or would like more information about sleep disorders call us at 713-441-3961 or e-mail us at sleep@houstonmethodist.org

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea