Who is this decision aid for?

This decision aid is designed for adults recently diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It provides information about OSA and treatment options.

This is not for:

  • people who have not been diagnosed with OSA by their doctor
  • children (under 18 years of age)
  • people who have been diagnosed with central sleep apnea

Why is this decision important?

  • Deciding Watch Video between treatments for OSA is challenging, because there is no 'best' treatment option.
  • The options are very different and deciding what is best for you means making trade-offs between things like effectiveness, side effects, convenience, and cost.
  • It is hard for doctors to select a treatment for you, because they don't always know what is important to you.
  • This tool will help you review your options and think about what you prefer, so you can make an informed decision with your healthcare provider.

What treatment options does this decision aid discuss?

This decision aid covers the 2 most popular, well-researched treatments for OSA:

1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

2. Dental Appliance

    What is obstructive sleep apnea?

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic (i.e., ongoing) sleep disorder. People with OSA experience stops, pauses, or shallow breathing when they sleep. An estimated two million Canadians have OSA. Many more people may have OSA and do not know it because they have not been tested.

    What happens during OSA?

      • People with OSA experience pauses in their breathing (called 'apneas') or shallow breathing (called 'hypopnea')
      • Both apneas and hypopneas result in low levels of oxygen in the blood.
      • In order to be diagnosed with OSA, people must experience at least 5 pauses per hour.
      • People with more severe OSA experience pauses over 30 times per hour.
      • Often people with OSA start breathing again with a loud snort or choking sound.

      Who is affected by OSA?

      • OSA is very common. About 9% of men and 4% of women have moderate to severe OSA
      • OSA affects people of all ages, but it is more common in males, people over 40 years of age and those who are overweight or obese.
      • Other risk factors for OSA include smoking and alcohol consumption, nighttime nasal congestion, menopause, and genetic factors.

      How is OSA severity classified?

      OSA can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on:

      • The number of times an hour a person pauses their breathing or has lower airflow.
      • The oxygen level in a person's blood.
      • How sleepy a person feels during the day.

      Can losing weight cure OSA?

      Regardless of the choice you make about treatment, your doctor may recommend losing weight. Some overweight/obese people may reduce or cure their OSA by losing weight.

      How serious is OSA?

      Untreated OSA may:

        • Cause poor quality of life and sleep quality, leading to daytime sleepiness and an increased risk of accidents at work or when driving.
        • Increase the risk of serious health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

        Where does this information come from?

        Researchers from the University of British Columbia have reviewed the published evidence and also relied on their experience treating people with OSA. The researchers have not been funded by the makers of any OSA treatments and they are impartial about which treatment you use.

        How does my doctor know if I have OSA?

        • Your doctor may ask you questions about whether you have symptoms of OSA.
        • Your doctor or health care provider may ask you to do a 'sleep study.' This is an overnight stay at the hospital where trained professionals watch your breathing, heart rate, and other vital signs while you sleep.
        • Your doctor may use a home monitor to check how often you stop breathing when you sleep.


        The information in this decision aid does not replace the advice of a doctor. The University of British Columbia and the researchers who developed this decision aid disclaim any warranty or liability for your use of this information.

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