Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by partial or full collapse of the upper airway (tongue, soft palate, uvula and tonsils). During intermittent episodes of partial collapse (referred to as a Hypopnea) or full collapse (referred to as an Apnea) breathing can become very shallow or be restricted altogether due to the obstructed upper airway. This causes sleep disturbances and stress on the body.

The Apneas or Hypopneas can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute or more. While breathing is shallow or restricted, there is often lower than normal levels of oxygen in the blood and a build up of carbon dioxide. As a result, the brain must wake the body up to regain muscle and tissue tone in the upper airway. This relieves the obstruction, re-establishes normal breathing, and oxygen levels increase.

Often these sleep disturbances are not noticed by the individual and they fall back into a deep sleep losing muscle tone again quite quickly. This pattern can repeat itself anywhere from a few times an hour to upwards of 100 times per hour.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of OSA?

  • Loud snoring
  • Witnessed episodes of not breathing during sleep
  • Gasping, choking, and/or snorting during sleep
  • Morning headache
  • Waking up feeling non-refreshed
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure

What are the complications of OSA?

Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea can contribute to a number of complications including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness that interferes with quality of life
  • Cardiovascular complications including a higher risk for heart attack and stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Job impairment - inability to concentrate
  • Headache

How do you get tested for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Level III Sleep Study

Locally, a test called a Level III Sleep Study is available* to diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This sophisticated piece of equipment is used in the comfort of your own home. Through a series of electrodes and sensors the recorder monitors several channels of information. This data is downloaded in our clinic and then sent to a sleep specialist for scoring and interpretation. A report with treatment recommendations is provided to your doctor from the sleep lab.

*Please note, TrueNorth is no longer accepting new Sleep Therapy patients, including referrals for Level III testing, until further notice.


Click to download the Instructions for Application of Level III sleep recorder components.


Another option is a referral to a sleep specialist for a full Polysomnogram (PSG). A PSG is a more exhaustive diagnostic test than a Level III Sleep Study and can aid in diagnosing many other sleep disorders. There are no sleep labs in the Yukon, so this referral requires a trip to a major referral centre. The test itself is performed in a facility (lab) where you spend the night. Similar to the Level III Sleep Study, numerous electrodes and sensors are used to monitor even more channels of information. The test is observed by a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist from a separate room to provide a detailed report of the events from the night (awakenings, for example). A full report with treatment recommendations is provided to your doctor.

Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

CPAP Therapy

How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea treated?

The gold standard treatment for OSA is CPAP therapy. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. That is, a constant pressure is delivered to the airway to hold relaxed muscle and tissue open so breathing can happen normally.

A CPAP machine is a bedside device that delivers pressurized air to the upper airway through a mask to achieve airway opening. There are numerous styles and makes of masks available including many low-profile options.

We currently stock Philips Respironics, Fisher & Paykel, and ResMed.

Please note, TrueNorth is no longer accepting new Sleep Therapy patients at this time.