What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder marked by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, poses significant health risks when left untreated. The disorder, encompassing obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea, leads to disruptions in sleep patterns, causing excessive daytime fatigue and sleepiness. The consequences extend to increased blood pressure, heightened risks of heart problems, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, and heart failure, as well as a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea is also linked to weight gain, obesity, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are prevalent, and the disorder's bidirectional relationship with weight complicates its management. Early diagnosis and intervention, involving lifestyle changes and medical therapies like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), are essential to mitigate the adverse health effects associated with sleep apnea.

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Leading experts in sleep apnea treatments

We understand the burden of sleep apnea and the worry and stress it causes. We understand your pain, your mood disorders caused by lack of sleep, the embarrassment snoring can cause, the frustration. We are here to help. At the San Francisco Center for TMJ and Sleep Apnea, we are the compassionate experts in sleep apnea and fully versed in its impact on your overall health. Our expertise lies in identifying and treating various forms of sleep apnea and delivering holistic, personalized, effective care. 

Understanding Sleep Apnea: Types, Symptoms, and Early Recognition

It’s essential to recognize the symptoms associated with each type:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax and obstruct the airway during sleep. This leads to instances of gasping for breath and a dangerous drop in oxygen levels.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

While less common, central sleep apnea involves the central nervous system. It happens when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. People with CSA often don’t snore as much as those with OSA.

Complex Sleep Apnea

This type is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. It occurs when central apneas persist or emerge while attempting to treat obstructive events with therapies like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or a bi-level device.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)

UARS is a condition where airflow is restricted and inflamed. It’s similar to OSA in its effects but often affects non-heavy, primarily female individuals. Oral appliances can be effective in alleviating UARS symptoms.


Loud snoring can also be a sign of potential sleep apnea. While snoring may initially seem harmless, it can escalate into obstructive sleep apnea. It’s crucial to seek early diagnosis to prevent further complications.

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The impact of sleep apnea

Loud snoring 

Loud snoring is a telltale sign of sleep apnea. Snoring can disrupt not only your sleep but also your partner’s. Snoring can be embarrassing, cause wakefulness, and result in a poor night of sleep. It is one of the most telling indicators that you suffer from sleep apnea.

Poor daytime energy levels

Poor energy can come from multiple sources. Sleep apnea is important to rule out. We provide an objective diagnosis within 72 hours of your initial appointment to determine whether it is sleep apnea that is causing the problem. We are passionate about helping people and we know how to help.

Cardiovascular Problems

Sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.


Sleep apnea can contribute to obesity as the disrupted sleep patterns associated with the condition may affect hormones regulating hunger and metabolism, leading to increased cravings for high-calorie foods and a potential disruption in the body's ability to manage weight effectively. Additionally, fatigue resulting from poor sleep can diminish motivation for physical activity, further exacerbating weight-related issues.


Sleep apnea can contribute to the development of diabetes as the intermittent oxygen deprivation and sleep disruptions associated with the condition may negatively impact insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


A correlation exists between sleep apnea and dementia, with studies suggesting that the intermittent drops in oxygen levels and disrupted sleep patterns characteristic of sleep apnea may contribute to cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer's disease. Treating sleep apnea may potentially mitigate this risk and promote better cognitive health.

Mood Disturbances

It's common for individuals with sleep apnea to experience mood swings, irritability, and even depression due to chronic sleep deprivation.

Decreased Libido

Sleep apnea may lead to a reduced sex drive and sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

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Advanced Sleep Apnea Treatments

Oral Sleep Appliance

The oral sleep appliance stands as a promising solution for individuals seeking respite from the challenges of sleep apnea. A highly effective treatment option targeting both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, this specialized device offers a user-friendly approach to improving sleep quality. Crafted to fit comfortably over the teeth during sleep, the oral appliance plays a pivotal role in supporting the jaw in a forward position. By doing so, it diligently maintains an open airway, addressing the root cause of obstructive sleep apnea.


Our range of treatments for sleep apnea includes NightLase, a non-invasive laser treatment to improve the quality of your sleep by addressing snoring and apnea episodes. NightLase is an innovative laser therapy designed to treat sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. This non-invasive treatment involves a specialized laser to stimulate collagen production and tighten the tissues in the oral cavity, specifically targeting the soft palate and throat.

Lingual Frenectomy

A lingual frenectomy is a minor surgical procedure that involves removing or modifying the lingual frenulum, the thin band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The procedure is commonly performed to address a condition known as “tongue tie” or “ankyloglossia,” which restricts tongue movement. Lingual frenectomy improves tongue mobility, alleviates discomfort, and enhances oral function.

Oral Appliances

Our custom-made oral appliances are sturdy, comfortable, and low-profile, ensuring a quality experience for our patients. Our approach involves patient education about sleep apnea’s impact on overall health followed by sleep studies and the fabrication of a custom oral appliance, which is easy to use and very effective.

Nasal Breathing

Nasal breathing plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy sleep patterns. Breathing through the nose allows optimal airflow and helps prevent sleep apnea. Addressing nasal obstruction through procedures like the Vivaer treatment can enhance airflow, improve sleep quality, and contribute to effective sleep apnea management.


The Vivaer procedure is a minimally invasive treatment designed to improve nasal airflow by reshaping nasal passages. Enhanced nasal breathing can aid in managing sleep apnea symptoms. By addressing nasal obstruction, the Vivaer procedure complements sleep apnea treatments and improves sleep quality and breathing patterns.

Why choose us for a sleep apnea treatment?

When researching the range of sleep apnea treatment options in San Francisco & the East Bay area, our approach is comprehensive, personalized, and involves a multidisciplinary approach. The first step is a sleep study to diagnose baseline obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with the benefit of assistance with insurance billing for your convenience. Our validation sleep studies ensure the effectiveness of OSA control.

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How can CT Scans help diagnose sleep apnea issues?

CT Scans can map the nasal, sinus and airway anatomy and point to issues that may contribute to sleep apnea. These may include:

  • Upper Airway Obstruction: CT scans can help identify anatomical abnormalities such as enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or other soft tissue structures that may contribute to upper airway obstruction, a common factor in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • Nasal Obstruction: CT scans can reveal issues with nasal passages, such as deviated septum or nasal polyps, which may impact airflow and contribute to sleep-disordered breathing.
  • Facial Skeletal Structure: CT imaging can show the craniofacial morphology, helping to identify features associated with an increased risk of sleep apnea, such as retrognathia (recessed jaw), micrognathia (small jaw), or maxillary retrusion.
  • Airway Volume and Cross-Sectional Area: CT scans can be used to quantify airway dimensions, providing information about airway volume and cross-sectional areas. This can be valuable in assessing the severity of airway obstruction in sleep apnea.

It's important to note that while CT scans can offer valuable insights, a comprehensive evaluation for sleep apnea and TMJ disorders often involves multiple diagnostic modalities, including clinical assessments, polysomnography (sleep studies), and dental evaluations. When you make an appointment with us, we will ensure the proper diagnostic modalities are chosen for your specific needs.

Sleep Apnea FAQ

What is sleep apnea?

What are the common signs of sleep apnea?

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

What treatment options are available?

Can oral appliances help with sleep apnea?

How do I know which treatment is right for me?

Is sleep apnea treatment covered by insurance?

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It can result from relaxed throat muscles (obstructive sleep apnea) or brain signaling issues (central sleep apnea), leading to disrupted sleep and decreased oxygen levels.

What are the common signs of sleep apnea?

Common signs include loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, headaches, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating. Restless sleep and choking or gasping for air during the night are also indicators.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

A sleep study, also known as polysomnography, is conducted to diagnose sleep apnea. This test monitors various aspects of your sleep, including brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.

What treatment options are available?

Treatment options range from lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and positional therapy, to medical interventions, including our groundbreaking oral appliances. We provide a personalized approach to determine the best solution for your needs.

Can oral appliances help with sleep apnea?

Yes, oral appliances effectively treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea by repositioning the jaw and tongue to maintain an open airway. These appliances are comfortable, portable, and a more comfortable alternative to CPAP therapy.

How do I know which treatment is right for me?

Our comprehensive approach begins with thoroughly evaluating your condition, medical history, and lifestyle. We then collaborate with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences.

Is sleep apnea treatment covered by insurance?

Many medical insurance plans cover sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. We are experienced in working with insurance providers to ensure you receive the coverage you deserve for your sleep health needs.

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