What is Sleep Apnoea?
POSTED 04 Jul 2015

Sleep apnoea is a common disorder wherein a person’s breathing is interrupted due to pauses or shallow breaths while he sleeps. This sleep disorder is potentially dangerous as episodes of apnoea will reduce the flow of oxygen into the person’s vital organs and may even cause irregular heart beat.

The cessation of breathing can last from a few seconds to more than a minute. The apnoea may occur more than 30 times per hour. Normal breathing starts again typically with a choking sound or a loud snort.

Sleep apnoea is a chronic and sleep-disruptive condition. When a person’s breathing becomes shallow or paused, he is prodded out of deep sleep and into light sleep, affecting quality of sleep. All of these happen without the person knowing about it. His quality of sleep is poor making him tired and excessively sleepy during the day.


Types of Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is not easily diagnosed during a routine doctor visit. Common laboratory tests such as blood test or x-ray cannot help diagnose this condition. A special sleep apnoea test called polysomnogram is required to diagnose the condition.

There are two types of sleep apnoea: obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnoea, where obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the more common type.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea: This particular sleep disorder is brought about by a blockage in the airway – where a soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. When a person tries to breathe, air that passes through the blockage causes loud snoring. OSA is more common in overweight persons; males; African-Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics; persons with thick necks; and older persons. Other risk factors for OSA include smoking, heart failure or stroke, and high blood pressure.

Central Sleep Apnoea: In this type of sleep disorder, a sufferer’s breathing is regularly disrupted during sleep because the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath. In infants, central sleep apnoea can pause breathing up to 20 seconds. Central sleep apnoea is commonly associated with a more serious illness that affects the lower brainstem.

Conditions associated with central sleep apnoea are: congestive heart failure; hypothyroidism; kidney failure; and neurological diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, damage to brainstem due to stroke, encephalitis). Males, overweight persons and those over 40 years old are at risk for this sleep disorder. Other risk factors for sleep apnoea are having large tonsils, large tongue, or small jaw bone. It also includes gastroesophageal reflux and nasal obstruction due to sinus problems, allergies and deviated septum.


Untreated sleep apnoea can be the root cause for poor performance in daily activities such as school and office work. Extreme daytime sleepiness can cause vehicular accidents and academic underachievement in children.

There are several options for the treatment of sleep apnoea. A basic option is lifestyle changes such as cutting down on smoking and alcohol consumption, and sleeping sideways. Wearing of MAD (mandibular advancement device) during sleep is another option.

The most popular treatment is the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device and other variants such as BiPAP and APAP. In rare cases, surgery to the base of the tongue and palate is the best option.

Here at PerthCPAP, we have the expertise to diagnose and provide advice and treatment for snoring and sleep apnoea.

Give us a call at 1300 744 441 now.

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