At UPMC\u2019s Sleep Medicine Center, doctors can diagnose and treat sleep apnea, often with surprisingly fast results.\nSleep Apnea Diagnosis Patient Story\nOverweight and diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, and an irregular heartbeat, Robert Guthrie underwent a sleep study at UPMC\u2019s Sleep Medicine Center to evaluate his pulmonary function and suitability for gastric bypass surgery. He was shocked to discover he had sleep apnea so severe he actually stopped breathing 147 times per hour.\nAffecting 12 million Americans, sleep apnea\u00a0doesn\u2019t just disrupt sleep. Untreated, it can cause serious health problems and lead to deadly accidents due to exhaustion.\n\u201cI was totally clueless. It was serendipity that took me to a sleep expert, and it probably saved my life,\u201d says Robert, 65, who immediately began using a nighttime breathing apparatus known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Within a week, he was sleeping soundly for the first time in six years. \u201cIt was life changing,\u201d says the Hopwood, Pa., resident. \u201cI feel 20 years younger.\u201d\nWhat Happens While Sleep Apnea Patients\u00a0Slumber?\nMost people don\u2019t know they have obstructive sleep apnea, usually caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. People with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly. With each interruption, the drop in oxygen levels prompts the brain to send a surge of adrenaline to kick-start breathing, which also leads to a spike in blood pressure.\n\u201cThis can happen 600 times a night. It\u2019s a burden on the cardiovascular system and affects the quality of sleep,\u201d says Patrick J. Strollo Jr., MD, medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center.\nAccording to Dr. Strollo, if you snore loudly, wake up exhausted despite a \u201cgood night\u2019s sleep,\u201d or feel tired or sleepy during the day, you should talk to your primary care physician. Since sleep apnea cannot be detected while you\u2019re awake, your doctor may ask you to participate in an overnight sleep study.\nAt UPMC\u2019s Sleep Medicine Center, patients stay in a private bedroom where a sleep technician applies sensors that measure breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and other body functions during sleep. A team of specialists diagnose sleep apnea by looking at the test results and reviewing medical history. Treatment options may include a CPAP machine like Robert uses, which blows air through a special mask worn over the nose.\n\u201cI wasn\u2019t wild about wearing the mask. But staying on it was a no-brainer \u2014 it\u2019s worth it for a good night\u2019s sleep,\u201d says Robert.\nLearn more about the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center.