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History of Sleep Apnea

All the Information You Need Courtesy of Our St. Louis Dentist

Although sleep apnea was not mentioned in any medical literature until 1965, sleep apnea symptoms have been observed by medical professionals for centuries. Patients who come to James Lillenberg DDS PC express concern over whether sleep apnea might be linked to hypertension, vertigo, and memory loss, in addition to many other conditions. According to the first medical reports, patients with severe sleep apnea tend to suffer from low-levels of blood oxygen, increased carbon dioxide production, and even congestive heart failure.

Pickwickian Syndrome

In the early 19th century, a physician has coined the term “Pickwickian Syndrome” to describe the different sleep apnea symptoms. The term is believed to have come from Charles Dickens’ novel, The Pickwick Papers, where one of the characters, Joe, was described to be overweight and exhibited sleep apnea-like symptoms.

Further studies on Pickwickian Syndrome, however, were narrowly focused on body fat as the main cause of the symptoms. While obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea, later studies show that it was not the primary cause or only reason for developing this condition.

The First CPAP Device

By the 1970s, research for sleep apnea has really taken off. Obstructed breathing or airways has now made its way to new studies as the core problem of this condition. However, treatment for sleep apnea has yet to be developed.

At first, people even resorted to tracheotomies to treat sleep apnea. Thankfully, by late 1970s to early 1980s, a non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea was developed by Dr. Collin Sullivan. This is known as the first continuous positive airway pressure device or CPAP. Unlike the modern and more streamlined design of CPAP today, the first CPAP was bulkier and noisier, but it was very effective that Dr. Sullivan has worked tirelessly to make the treatment more widespread.

Continuing Research for Sleep Apnea

Because of Dr. Sullivan, the medical community has deemed it important to raise awareness about the symptoms of sleep apnea and who might be able to benefit from the available treatment. An increase in the number of specialized sleep clinics have also cropped up as public awareness of sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders rose. In fact, a study that was conducted in 1993 has shown that one out of fifteen Americans suffers from moderate to severe sleep apnea.

Get in Touch with a Sleep Apnea Specialist in St. Louis

Today, countless conclusive studies about sleep apnea have paved the way for a more accurate diagnosis and a number of other effective treatments, including our snoring sleep apnea dental treatment center in St. Louis. If you suspect that you suffer from this serious but highly treatable condition, we encourage you to visit James Lillenberg DDS. As the leading St. Louis dental practice specializing in obstructive sleep apnea, we are dedicated to helping you find relief from the symptoms associated with this condition.

Call us today at (314) 227-9141 to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Lillenberg is looking forward to helping you.


  • Qualified Dentist
  • Tufts School of Dental Medicine
  • Academy of General Dentistry
  • ADA

Accomplished & Compassionate Dentist

Why Leave Your Sleep Dentistry Needs in Our Care?
  • Experienced Dentist

    For more than 35 years, Dr. Lillenberg has helped patients patients throughout the area.

  • Striving for Your Comfort

    With an emphasis on gentle care, we want to you to feel at home when you come to our office.

  • Flexible Payment Plan

    Dr. Lillenberg accepts most insurance plans and offers flexible financing options.

  • Unique Help for Sleep Apnea

    We are proud to be the only dentistry offering sleep dentistry services in St. Louis.