Sleep Apnoea (Apnea)
Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2010 14:39
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Sleep Apnoea is a medical disorder where a person tops breathing for short periods (about 10 seconds) while asleep. The decreasing oxygen in the blood causes the person to wake up briefly and get back to normal breathing. The brief pauses may occur as often as 20 to 30 times an hour.
Sleep Apnoea Overview
Sleep apnea episodes can occur hundreds of times during the night but the person is not awake long enough to be aware of it. It leads to poor quality sleep and affects the personâ€™s ability to work and concentrate the next day. The person may also get very sleepy during the daytime.
Although loud snoring is frequently associated with sleep apnoea, not everyone who snores will suffer from apnoea, and not everyone with apnoea snores. Those who suffer from it may sound like they are gasping for air or choking during their sleep, or they may snort when they resume breathing. If left untreated sleep apnoea can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, complications with surgery and medications. People who regularly suffer from sleep apnoea are anywhere from 2 to 5 times more likely to have a road accident.
The condition is twice as common in men than women and, 4% of middle aged men will have it and 2% of middle aged women. 80% of people with the condition may be unaware that they have it.
What causes sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is primarily caused by narrowing or blockage of the throat during sleep when the throat muscles are relaxed. Narrowing can occur due to obesity (greater fat stores around the neck) or obstruction, e.g. nasal polyps, or enlarged tonsils or tongue.
Much less common is central sleep apnoea, in which the brain fails to send signals to the muscles in the diaphragm to breathe or the muscles do not receive the signals. This may be caused by a stroke, brain tumour, spinal injury or neuromuscular disorder such as ALS.
Who is at risk of sleep apnoea?
Risk factors include:
- Physical abnormality in the nose throat or upper respiratory tract
- Males are twice as likely to be affected.
- Large neck or collar size
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Those with a family history of sleep apnoea
- Use of alcohol, tranquilizers or other sedating medications.
Diagnosing sleep apnoea
People with sleep apnoea often snore allot, and loudly, because air is being sucked into a narrowed airway. Your doctor needs to diagnose whether or not you have sleep apnoea, and will suggest appropriate treatments. Losing weight is the best option when sleep apnoea is caused by obesity.
Next: Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea
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