Information for patients.

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder characterised by abnormally low breathing or the lengthy pausing of breathing during sleep.

Each pause in breathing, called an apnoea, can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, and may occur between 5 to 30 times or more an hour.

When an apnoea occurs, sleep is usually disrupted due to inadequate breath intake and poor oxygen levels in the blood.

Sometimes this means the person wakes up completely, but more often it means the person comes out of a deep level of sleep and into a more shallow level of sleep.


Both suffering a low oxygen level overnight and frequently arousing from deep sleep are detrimental to your health.

Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

OSA is the most common type of sleep apnoea.

The diagram to the left shows the Long Soft pallet in the back of our throats which in some people is prone to temporarily collapse during their sleep.


This obstruction prevents air from being pulled into the lungs even though the body is trying to breathe.

Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA)

CSA describes a sleep-respiratory disorder where the pause in breath is caused by a lack of effort to breathe rather than an obstruction in the airway as in OSA. The brains of people who suffer CSA are less responsive to blood gas level changes (oxygen and carbon dioxide) than the brains of non-sufferers. This slow response results in a delay of the signal to breathe which can last from 10 seconds to two minutes.


There are some subtle symptoms of Sleep Apnoea which can easily go unnoticed:

• High blood pressure (Hypertension)

• Heart attack

• Stroke

• Obesity

• Type 2 Diabetes

• Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)

• Excessive daytime sleepiness

• Poor memory and concentration

• Depression

• Work-related or driving accidents due to fatigue

• Poor concentration

• Morning headaches

• Depressed mood

• Night sweats

• Weight gain


• Fatigue

• Forgetfulness

• Sexual dysfunction

• Poor memory

• Nocturia

Sleep apnoea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) is the most common and beneficial treatment available. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and surgery can also successfully treat sleep apnoea in some cases.




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