The full name of this condition is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) making it a more accurate description of this common condition. Almost everyone with this condition snores but this is much more than simple snoring.

Overview

What is Sleep Apnoea?

In Obstructive Sleep Apnoea the floppy structures in the throat completely obstruct the airflow for long periods leading to a significant reduction in the blood oxygen levels. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can cause many medical problems leading to significant morbidity as well as social difficulties. Therefore, it is extremely important to diagnose this common condition so that appropriate treatment may be started to avoid the possible consequences and improve the sufferer’s quality of life.

It is known that the vast majority of people with Sleep Apnoea have not been diagnosed of this condition and are unaware that they have it.

Consequences of Sleep Apnoea

If left untreated the frequent reductions in oxygen levels, caused by Sleep Apnoea, cause a significant physiological stress to the body. This is because the brain detects the lowered oxygen levels and causes the sufferer to have regular awakenings or “micro-arousals” so that the throat muscles can open up the airway. The sufferer may not be aware of being awake during a micro-arousal but he/she does not get sufficient restful sleep with frequent episodes. As a result people with OSA are excessively tired and sleepy during the day. They may also have problems with concentration and mood changes. People with significant Sleep Apnoea are at higher risk of cardiac disease, strokes, diabetes, pulmonary disease, hypertension and early death. These risks are greater in severe Sleep Apnoea.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea

A detailed history from the person (and their partner) followed by a thorough examination, by an expert in Sleep Disordered Breathing, will often raise suspicion of having Sleep Apnoea. For example, making an assessment of how sleepy a person is during the daytime, sleep patterns, known episodes of lack of breathing (apnoeas) are some of the things to evaluate in the history as well as many others. A high “Sleepiness Score” on a validated questionnaire (Epworth Sleepiness Score) will raise suspicions of possible Sleep Apnoea.

A through examination would include a careful assessment of the airway (breathing passages) of the nose and throat.

When there is any suspicion of Sleep Apnoea the person should have a Sleep Study performed to make the definitive diagnosis. This is performed at home in almost all cases and it is organized by an expert member of the Sleep Disordered Breathing team.

Home Sleep Study

A detailed history from the person (and their partner) followed by a thorough examination, by an expert in Sleep Disordered Breathing, will often raise suspicion of having Sleep Apnoea. For example, making an assessment of how sleepy a person is during the daytime, sleep patterns, known episodes of lack of breathing (apnoeas) are some of the things to evaluate in the history as well as many others. A high “Sleepiness Score” on a validated questionnaire (Epworth Sleepiness Score) will raise suspicions of possible Sleep Apnoea.

A through examination would include a careful assessment of the airway (breathing passages) of the nose and throat.

When there is any suspicion of Sleep Apnoea the person should have a Sleep Study performed to make the definitive diagnosis. This is performed at home in almost all cases and it is organized by an expert member of the Sleep Disordered Breathing team.

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