Sleep Apnea (OSA) Program

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. These breathing pauses or "apneas" usually last 10 to 30 seconds and can happen many times throughout the night.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when the upper airway gets blocked during sleep. Often, the blockage happens when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. Relaxed throat muscles, a narrow airway, a large tongue or extra fatty tissue in the throat can also block the airway. Central apnea and mixed apnea are other types of sleep apnea, but are more rare.

Screening tests at Providence Health Care

While admitted to one of our PHC sites, your doctor may request a nocturnal oximetry study or a sleep study. A Respiratory Therapist will visit you, inform you of the test and explain what is involved. They will also set you up with the equipment and monitor you closely through the night. The data from your test will be recorded and the Respiratory Therapist will generate a report for the Respirologist to interpret. Result times can vary between 24 hours and 7 days.

Outpatient testing

Overnight oximetry studies can be organized through the Pulmonary Function Lab at St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. If the study indicates that further testing is required, your Respirologist may refer you for more extensive studies at the UBC Sleep Disorders Clinic.

Treating Sleep Apnea is multi-factorial

Sometimes the treatment of Sleep Apnea requires lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices, and surgery. Lifestyle changes may include avoiding alcohol, weight loss, stopping smoking, and sleeping on your side. If it is indicated, you will be given a prescription for a CPAP or BiPAP machine. There are several suppliers throughout the Province. Sometimes costs can be covered by Extended Health or other benefits.

Untreated sleep apnea

Untreated sleep apnea may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, obesity, and motor vehicle collisions.