Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea can be a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Sleep apnoea causes the airways to become blocked during sleep which causes people to struggle to breathe. There are two types of obstructive sleep apnoea; these are apnoea (a total blockage of the airway) and hypopnoea (a partial blockage of the airway). When a person that has sleep apnoea falls asleep they may experience several episodes of both apnoea and hypopnoea; when the airway becomes blocked, the lack of oxygen causes the person to wake up so that they can try to take more oxygen on board. People with sleep apnoea often experience fatigue and a lack of concentration during the day as a result of disturbed sleep patterns; this can increase the risk of them being involved in an accident.

Risk factors for sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is caused by a relaxation in the muscles in the back of the throat which causes the airway to become partially or fully blocked. Risk factors for sleep apnoea include:

  • Obesity: the chance of developing sleep apnoea is considerably higher in people that are obese
  • Age: people aged over 40 are more likely to develop this condition
  • Sex: men are more likely to suffer from sleep apnoea than women
  • Sleeping pills: sleeping pills cause the muscles in the throat to relax
  • Having a large neck circumference (over 17cm)
  • Drinking alcohol before bed
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

The most obvious symptoms of sleep apnoea are heavy snoring, waking up several times during the night and breathing difficulties during sleep; however there are a number of other symptoms, which are usually a result of sleep deprivation; these include:

  • A lack of concentration
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of memory
  • Changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Lack of sexual libido
  • Headaches (especially in the mornings)

Treating sleep apnoea

Making a few lifestyle changes can usually ease symptoms of mild sleep apnoea; these include stopping smoking, losing weight and avoiding drinking alcohol at night. In more severe cases of sleep apnoea, patients may be advised to wear a mask at night to help them breathe; this is known as continuous positive airway pressure. Sleep apnoea is a very serious condition; if you suspect you may have sleep apnoea you should contact your GP immediately; if left untreated sleep apnoea may prove fatal.

Guide to Sleep Disorder

Sleep Disorder Intro



Restless legs syndrome

Sleep apnoea

Sleeping well