Common Sleep Disorder

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes interrupted breathing, gasping, coughing and wake-ups many times each night. More than 18 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea each year.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. OSA typically occurs because of an anatomical difference in the upper airway that prevents you from taking a breath while sleeping. Most frequently, it’s due to the mouth or tongue muscles collapsing and closing during sleep. This obstruction prevents oxygen from going to the brain, which the brain senses and wakes up the body for long enough to take a breath. This OSA cycle can happen hundreds of times each night, keeping you from getting restful sleep.  

If left untreated, sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your health. OSA patients have a higher likelihood of developing:

At Penn State Health, our multidisciplinary team of surgeons and sleep physicians work together to determine the cause of your sleep apnea. We will create a comprehensive treatment plan to help you achieve restful sleep once again. 

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Obstructive sleep apnea has two main symptoms:

  • Breathing pauses while sleeping
  • Snoring

Additional common sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or throat upon awakening
  • Morning headache

The sleep experts at Penn State Health will diagnose your sleep apnea using an overnight sleep study. During your test, special monitoring equipment will be attached to your body to evaluate your breathing throughout the night. The severity of your sleep apnea is determined by the number of breathing pauses per hour of sleep. An index of 30 or more breathing pauses per hour is considered “severe.” However, a lower index may require treatment, particularly if sleep apnea is accompanied by daytime sleepiness or other health problems.

Many OSA patients have found that CPAP and BiPAP devices can lessen the severity of their sleep apnea. Overweight patients can also find success by incorporating a weight loss routine with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Experts in Care

The experts at Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center are committed to providing patients with comprehensive, multidisciplinary sleep apnea care.

Find a doctor near you

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Positive airway pressure treatment options

For patients with moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea, the most common treatment is positive airway pressure. The expert team at Penn State Health may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) device to increase air pressure through a hose attached to a face mask. This flow of air pressure keeps the airway open during sleep.

Our team will work with you to determine the cause of your OSA and if a positive airway pressure device would be a beneficial treatment option. Surgical intervention or device implantation may be alternative treatment options if a patient does not respond well to CPAP or BiPAP.

Cutting-edge upper airway stimulation therapy

Penn State Health Otolaryngology is pleased to offer sleep apnea patients a breakthrough implantable treatment option – Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation.

Inspire therapy is an innovative OSA treatment option for patients who do not receive a consistent benefit from CPAP. It can also help patients who feel too claustrophobic using CPAP or have disrupted sleep from their loud CPAP machine.

Inspire works with your body’s natural breathing process, continuously monitoring your breathing patterns while you sleep. Based on your unique cadence, the system delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles and keeps them open during sleep. Inspire therapy is controlled by a sleep remote, making it simple to turn on at bedtime and off upon waking up in the morning.

Studies have determined that Inspire therapy patients have significant and sustained reductions in sleep apnea events, increased daytime activity levels and reduced daytime sleepiness. A recent clinical trial had high patient success rates, including: 

  • 75% reduction in reports of snoring by a bed partner 
  • 78% reduction in sleep apnea events per hour
  • 81% of patients successfully use Inspire therapy all night, every night

How does the Inspire Upper Airway Stimulator help with sleep apnea? Hear from Dr. Neerav Goyal, Chief, Division of Head and Neck Oncology and Surgery.

Inspire upper airway frequently asked questions

What is Inspire upper airway stimulation? 

Inspire therapy is an innovative obstructive sleep apnea treatment option for people unable to use or get consistent benefit from CPAP. The fully implanted system delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles which keeps the airway open during sleep.

How does Inspire therapy work?

Traditionally, the most common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which involves wearing masks. However, not everyone can tolerate CPAP. Some people feel claustrophobic when wearing them or believe they are too loud.

The fully implanted Inspire therapy system works inside your body with your natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea. It continuously monitors your breathing patterns while you sleep. Based on your unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles and keeps them open during sleep.

Inspire therapy is controlled by a sleep remote. Simply turn on the therapy at night before bed and off in the morning upon waking.

What are the benefits? 

In a clinical trial, users saw the following results:

  • 78 percent reduction in sleep apnea events per hour
  • 75 percent reduction in bed partner-reported snoring 
  • 81 percent of patients use Inspire therapy all night, every night.

Make an appointment

To make an appointment with the experts in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Penn State Health, call 717-531-6822 and select option 1, then option 2, or email [email protected].

Sleep apnea clinical trials

Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center conducts cutting-edge clinical trials to study the impact of sleep apnea on patients. Our experts are always trying to learn more about different types of sleep apnea and innovative treatment options. To learn more about clinical trials at Penn State Health, visit our StudyFinder.

Support Groups

If you or a loved one has obstructive sleep apnea, our team is here to connect you with others in similar situations.

The American Sleep Apnea Association’s AWAKE (Alert, Well and Keeping Energetic) Network holds a local support group at the Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center. The program is a patient-centered group for patients with obstructive sleep apnea. It meets quarterly and consists of lectures from sleep specialists and a support group for patients to share their experiences.

Learn more about support groups offered or call Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center at 717-531-8520

Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

Find a location near you