Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Sleep health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

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:


Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 20, 2017

Sleep well newsletter

Get tips for better sleep.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health