Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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Houston Methodist’s obstructive sleep apnea experts customize treatment for each patient. We help reduce long-term health risks so that our patients (and their loved ones) return to restorative, restful sleep. 

Houston Methodist is one of nine sleep centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Our board-certified physicians and registered sleep technicians collaborate to provide comprehensive, customized care for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). 

Left untreated, OSA can cause countless health issues, including potentially fatal heart complications, liver disease or stroke. Getting an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment can improve your breathing during sleep, helping you feel more refreshed and reducing your risk of serious health conditions.  

Diagnosing & Treating OSA

What are the signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

When a person with OSA falls asleep, his or her airway collapses and narrows, disrupting normal breathing patterns and sleep cycles — usually resulting in loud snoring. 

Family members or bed partners often notice a patient’s snoring first. However, many patients experience other symptoms such as: 


  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (while at work, in social situations or while driving) 
  • Trouble concentrating during the day 
  • Irritability 
  • Morning headaches 
  • Nausea upon awakening 
  • Frequent urination at night


Your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea is higher if you have one or more of the following physical attributes: 


  • Large neck or collar size (17 inches or more in men and 16 inches or more in women) 
  • Large tongue, tonsils or adenoids that can block the airway 
  • Narrow throat 
  • Obesity 
  • Shorter lower jaw compared to your upper jaw 


If you experience symptoms of sleep apnea and have one or more risk factors, visit a sleep specialist. Houston Methodist’s integrated sleep medicine neurologists can help reduce your risk of serious OSA-related health problems. 

How is OSA diagnosed? 

Our team of sleep specialists will conduct several tests and exams to diagnose your sleep disorder. First, we will review your medical history and ask about your sleep habits. Then, we will conduct a physical exam of your mouth, neck and throat. 

If we suspect OSA, we will order an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram) in our hotel-like sleep laboratory. As you sleep in a private, comfortable room, our sleep technicians will use advanced equipment to measure your: 


  • Blood oxygen saturation 
  • Blood pressure 
  • Body position 
  • Brain waves 
  • Breathing rate and airflow 
  • Eye movement 
  • Heart rate and rhythm  
  • Muscle electric activity 


If you have mild symptoms and do not have other serious health conditions or sleep disorders, you may be eligible for a home sleep study instead. We’ll provide equipment for you to take home and wear overnight to record your breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels during sleep. 

Depending on the results of your sleep study, we might perform a positive airway pressure (PAP) titration test to help determine whether you will benefit from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. During the test, you’ll wear a fitted mask connected to a machine that increases the air pressure in your throat to help you breathe easier. The test will help us recommend an appropriate CPAP mask and the air pressure level you need to sleep better. 

What treatment options are available?

The goal of obstructive sleep apnea treatment is to keep your airway open while you sleep so your breathing is not interrupted.  

Lifestyle changes can significantly improve your breathing during sleep. These include: 


  • Achieving a healthy weight 
  • Avoiding alcohol before bedtime 
  • Sleeping on your side instead of your back 


Sleep medicine devices offer many patients with OSA — and their partners — more restful, restorative sleep: 


  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine – A mask is connected to a small, quiet, portable machine that flows a steady stream of air through your nose and throat. The air flow helps you maintain healthy breathing as you sleep. 
  • Dental devices – For some patients, an oral insert can help hold your jaw forward, opening the airway during sleep. 


We want you to succeed over the long term. A registered sleep technician will help you select the proper device and educate you on maintenance and adherence.  

If your OSA is due to a structural deformity in the head and neck, facial bones or tongue, tonsils or adenoids, surgery might help improve your breathing. Our highly skilled surgeons can reduce or remove muscle or tissue to alleviate OSA symptoms in some patients. Not all patients are eligible for OSA surgery — talk with your sleep medicine doctor about the best option for you. 

Bob’s Story: Living with Sleep Apnea

Bob’s wife noticed he was snoring and gasping during sleep. Soon after, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea. After successful treatment at Houston Methodist, Bob (and his wife!) are sleeping soundly.

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