Sleep apnoea is a relatively common but serious sleep disorder in which a person repeatedly stops breathing for periods of time while they are asleep.
In middle age, sleep apnoea affects around 4% of men and 2% of women.
There are two types of sleep apnoea:
- Obstructive sleep apnoea(OSA): By far the more common of the two forms of sleep apnoea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
- Central sleep apnoea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control centre.
Am I at risk of sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea can affect anyone at any age, even children. However risk factors for sleep apnoea include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over 40
- Having a large neck size (45 cm or 18 inches in a man of average height - 1.7m or 5 ft 8in)
- Having large tonsils, excessive folds in the inner lining of the mouth
- Having nasal congestion
- Having diabetes
- Being a smoker
- Drinking alcohol
- Having a family history of sleep apnoea
What are the effects of sleep apnoea?
If left untreated, sleep apnoea can result in a growing number of health problems including: