What Is Sleep Apnea?

The conditions often referred to as sleep disordered breathing (SDB) include a group of medical conditions that are associated with abnormal breathing that occurs only during sleep and not wakefulness. There are several types of sleep disordered breathing including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Complex sleep apnea
  • Hypoventilation syndrome

SDB has been shown to contribute to the development of hypertension and high blood sugar. These abnormalities drive an increased risk of developing heart attack, heart failure, stroke and diabetes. Other medical conditions can worsen when associated with SDB, including retinal disease, gout, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease and many more.

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. It is more likely in people who snore loudly, are overweight, have high blood pressure or have some abnormality in their nose and throat.

During apnea, the oxygen level in the blood falls. This causes the patient to awaken slightly (without knowing it) so that breathing can resume. Apnea can last from just a few seconds to over a minute and it can occur many times during the night.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects more than 18 million people. OSA occurs when the airway is blocked during sleep. No air moves in or out of the lungs. The blockage may be caused by the tongue or the soft part of the mouth falling over the airway. If OSA is left untreated, the low oxygen level may harm the heart and other organs.

Central sleep apnea 

Central sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. Central sleep apnea occurs because your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

Complex sleep apnea

Complex sleep apnea is another sleep disorder in which repeated central apneas (more than five an hour) occur and for which there is not a known cause.

Hypoventilation syndrome

Hypoventilation syndrome is a condition in some obese people in which poor breathing leads to lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in their blood.

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Sleep Disorders Center

The Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Sleep Disorders Center provides day and night sleep studies for diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors (sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams) disorders and narcolepsy. Patients have the option of completing diagnostic studies at home using ambulatory monitoring technology.

Please call 847.535.8000 to schedule an appointment at our Grayslake location.

The Sleep Disorders Center also sees patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.

Services and Care at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee and Valley West Sleep Disorder Centers

The Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Sleep Disorder Centers conduct sleep studies to diagnose a variety of disorders in adults. The Sleep Disorder Center in DeKalb, which is an Accredited Member Center of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, also treats children age 3 and older.

Sleep studies are performed overnight using advanced computerized equipment to monitor the brain as it transitions through the stages of sleep and measure the functions of the lungs, heart, and other parts of the body.

The Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Sleep Disorder Centers in DeKalb and Sandwich are trusted medical facilities known for their compassionate and excellent care. Benefits of receiving sleep studies in DeKalb and Sandwich include:

  • Highly trained polysomnographers: Each with more than 10 years of experience
  • Smooth and convenient process: For physicians who are scheduling patients and receiving reports
  • Home-like setting in private rooms: Patients sleep in a regular bed and are free to bring items from home to make bedtime comfortable

Related Resources

Sleep Apnea Brochure: Learn important information about this condition. English | Spanish