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Sleep apnoea

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.

Sleep apnoea symptoms

As well as stopping breathing for periods of time, symptoms can include:

  • Snoring
  • Poor sleep, waking up unrefreshed
  • Visiting the toilet a lot in the night
  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Being irritable
  • Lacking concentration

Reduced sex drive

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 30-65
  • Having a large neck size
  • Having large tonsils, excessive folds in the inner lining of the mouth
  • Having nasal congestion
  • Menopause
  • 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 number of health problems including:

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 20, 2017

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