What is sleep apnoea?

What is sleep apnoea?
March 25 07:34 2020 Print This Article

Sleep apnoea occurs when a person’s throat is partly or completely blocked while they sleep. This serious sleep disorder causes people to stop breathing for a period of time which can decrease the amount of oxygen the brain and body receives. It is estimated 5% of Australians suffer from sleep apnoea, with around 1 in 4 men over 30 years of age affected.


There are two types of sleep apnoea; obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and central sleep apnoea (CSA). OSA is the more common form and is caused by a blockage of the airway, whereas CSA occurs when the brain fails to signal to the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control centre.

The most common symptom of sleep apnoea is snoring. Other symptoms include:

  • Silent pausing in breathing
  • Choking or gasping sounds
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Nocturia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased sexual desire


Common contributing risk factors for sleep apnoea include:

  • Family history
  • Excess weight/obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Large tonsils
  • Medications
  • Nasal congestion and obstruction
  • Certain illnesses (such as those caused by problems with the thyroid).


The first step to treating sleep apnoea is making lifestyle changes. This includes losing weight, decreasing alcohol consumption and taking medication. For more serious cases of sleep apnoea, the most effective treatment method is ‘nasal continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) which is a machine that prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep. Mouthguards can also work by holding your jaw forward during sleep. Although not always effective, surgery to the palate and base of tongue can be used as a last resort.

The home doctor experts at House Call Doctor recommend visiting your local GP or sleep disorders clinic to discuss your risk of sleep apnoea and management plans.


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Nathaniel Little
Nathaniel Little

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