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  At a Glance FACT SHEET

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing
    during sleep.
  • "Apnoea" is a Greek word meaning "without breath." An apnoea is clinically defined as a cessation of breath that lasts at least ten seconds.
  • "Hypopnea" also comes from Greek: "hypo" meaning "beneath" or "less than normal" and "pnea" meaning "breath." A hypopnea is not a complete cessation of breath but can be defined as a perceptible reduction in airflow that leads to sleep fragmentation or to a decrease in the oxygen level in the bloodstream.
  • The apnoea-hypopnea index (AHI) or respiratory disturbance index (RDI) refers to the total number of apnoeas and hypopneas divided by the total sleep study in a patient’s sleep study. The AHI gives one measure of the severity of the sleep apnoea.
  • Typically the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes the airway, forcing sufferers to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. 
  • Although the typical Obstructive Sleep Apnoea patent is overweight, male, and over the age of forty, sleep apnoea affects both males and females of all ages and those of ideal weight.
  • The most common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are loud snoring and excessive sleepiness (i.e., falling asleep easily and sometimes often inappropriately).
  • Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can be life threatening; consequences may include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular complications.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is far more common than is generally understood. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a breathing disorder characterised by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. It owes its name to a Greek word, apnoea, meaning "without breath".

The effects of OSA is that a person can stop breathing for periods when asleep. These interruptions (apnoeas), which last for 10 seconds or more, occur when the airway narrows so much that it closes. This stops breathing, and the brain reacts by briefly waking the subject, causing the airways to re-open and breathing to restart. The individual is usually unaware of this awakening and this process can be repeated up to several hundred times during the night. Proper restfull sleep becomes impossible, resulting in sleepiness and impairment of daytime function.

Early recognition and treatment of OSA is important. The excessive sleepiness associated with OSA impairs quality of life and places people at increased risk of road traffic and other accidents. It may also be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Who suffers from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea occurs in all age groups and in both sexes although it is more common in middle aged men. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, which causes symptoms of excessive sleepiness affects an estimated 4% of the male and 2% of the female middle age population.

Sleepiness is a global epidemic, and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea syndrome is a major threat to nightly rest. People most likely to have or develop Obstructive Sleep Apnoea include those who snore loudly, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or with physical abnormality in the nose, throat, or other parts of the upper airway. If left untreated or undiagnosed the results can be tragic.

Stimulants (like coffee) taken to counter the effects of tiredness are not a substitute for sleep. The regular use of stimulants by individuals may be a clue to the existence of an underlying sleep disorder.