What Is Sleep Apnoea?

Have you ever heard of sleep apnoea? Sleep apnoea is a potentially dangerous condition where you will stop breathing repeatedly in your sleep. The reason why sleep apnoea is treated as a dangerous condition is due to its linkage to other potentially troublesome conditions, such as heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure and acid reflux. Not to add, studies have pointed out that sufferers of sleep apnoea are somehow at a higher risk of traffic accidents – most probably because they do not sleep well at night.

The first symptom that is linked to sleep apnoea is snoring – of the very loud kind. It should not be misunderstood with the average snoring issues people usually have however; almost everyone can a ‘primary snorer’, or a ‘simple snorer’. A primary snorer is one who snores due to underlying factors such as sleep patterns and habits, alcohol intake, obesity and other similar lifestyle patterns (as well as hereditary traits). Those diagnosed with sleep apnoea however, tend to snore much more loudly than these normal snorers: for example, if your partner finds that you tend to stop breathing in your sleep, choke or are very loud when snoring, it might be necessary to conduct a PSG – that is, a sleep study – to find if you have sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea can be divided into three main types as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), central sleep apnoea (CSA), and complex sleep apnoea syndrome (CSAS). The first, OSA, is the most common form of the three, and is caused by a relaxation of your throat muscles; CSA instead, is a more serious form of sleep apnoea, where the brain somehow does not send signals to the muscles that control your breathing patterns properly; and lastly, CSAS is a combination of both OSA and CSA.

The most common treatment for sleep apnoea is the continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). This device is basically a mask connected to a ventilator. The mask is put over your mouth and nose when you go to sleep, and the ventilator will continuously blow air into the nasal and buccal airways so that the pressure of the airway is always maintained at a constant level. This will prevent the airway from getting blocked or collapsing during sleep, and thereby prevent episodes of stopped breathing.

While the continuous positive airway pressure device is the most widely used method of treatment, it is by no means the only method of treatment. In fact, there are some individuals who fail to be cured by its use. Other treatments include the usual treatments for snoring – such as addressing alcohol intake and sleep habits – or even surgery.