OSA happens when your throat closes partially (hypopnoea) or completely (apnoea) during sleep, obstructing your airways for about 10 seconds. This sudden interruption to your breathing subconsciously rouses you from deep sleep or, very briefly, wakes you up. As sleep apnoea usually happens repeatedly, OSA can lead to poor quality sleep.
OSA is a long-term (chronic) sleep disorder which affects twice as many men as women. It can develop at any age, but it’s more common if you’re over the age of 40.
As disturbed sleep can make you very tired during the day, sleep apnoea can affect daily life and activities such as your ability to drive. If you suffer from sleep apnoea, you’re 12 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
OSA can usually be treated with simple lifestyle changes or by using sleeping aids, such as a CPAP machine or a mandibular advancement device.
Common night-time symptoms of OSA are:
If you have a partner, they’ll possibly be more aware of your sleep apnoea symptoms than you are. They may also be affected by your OSA and suffer from disturbed sleep or insomnia as a result.
During the day, you may be excessively tired, have mood swings and also problems remembering and concentrating.
If you suspect you have OSA, make an appointment to see your GP. Sleep apnoea can be a symptom of several serious health conditions, and can also increase your risk of:
Your GP will discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting you.
Your GP may refer you to a consultant at a sleep clinic for assessment, diagnosis and treatment. At the sleep clinic, you’ll be asked about your sleeping habits and sleep apnoea symptoms and undergo a detailed assessment. This may include a sleep apnoea test to monitor your sleeping and breathing patterns, which can be carried out in your own home or during an overnight hospital stay.
Factors which increase the risk of OSA include:
Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing OSA and can also relieve sleep apnoea symptoms. Try:
If your OSA symptoms are having a serious impact on your life, your doctor may recommend: