Understanding a Common Sleep Disorder
Sleep apnoea, is a prevalent sleep disorder characterised by interrupted breathing during sleep.
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Sleep apnoea, or sometimes spelled as “apnea” in some regions, is a prevalent sleep disorder characterised by interrupted breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnoea experience repeated pauses in their breathing, called apnoeas, which can last for several seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times throughout the night. These interruptions in breathing can have significant health consequences and disrupt the sleep cycle, leading to various symptoms and complications. Many people also experience partial obstructions or pauses in their breathing (called hypopnoeas) which can still cause significant issues or symptoms without becoming complete apnoeas.
Watch Dr. Teo explain “what is OSA and Snoring”
Types of Sleep Apnoea:
There are two primary types of sleep apnoea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA):
Cause: OSA is the most common form of sleep apnoea and occurs primarily when the soft tissues in the throat (pharynx) relax during sleep, leading to a partial or complete blockage of a compromised upper airway.
Signs & Symptoms: Common signs or symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, poor cognitive function or memory, daytime tiredness & fatigue.
Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA):
Cause: CSA is less common and involves a failure of the brain to transmit the appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing during sleep.
Signs & Symptoms: CSA is often associated with heart failure and may include episodes of shortness of breath, abrupt awakenings, and difficulty staying asleep. There is often an overlap between OSA & CSA symptoms experienced by patients.
Key Aspects of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea:
- Risk Factors:
Obesity: Excess weight, particularly around the neck, can increase the risk of OSA.
Family History: A family history of sleep apnoea may predispose individuals to the condition.
Nasal Obstruction: Structural issues or allergies affecting the nasal passages can contribute to sleep apnoea.
Craniofacial issues: Small jaws or setback, retruded mandible or maxilla can cause narrow airway space or room for the tongue. This is often accompanied with teeth crowding and not having enough room for all the teeth leading to orthodontic treatment and/or teeth removal.
Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) include:
- Loud and chronic snoring.
- Pauses in breathing observed by a bed partner.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Morning headaches.
- Irritability and mood changes.
- Frequent awakenings from sleep.
- Poor cognitive performance and memory.
Untreated sleep apnoea can potentially be a risk factor leading to the development or worsening of some serious health issues, including:
- High blood pressure.
- Cardiovascular problems, such as arrhythmias, heart attacks, and heart failure.
- Daytime sleepiness & fatigue that can contribute to accidents, including drowsy driving.
- Weight gain due to poor motivation to endorse healthy habits and exhaustion from poor sleep quality which prevents regular exercise.
- Diagnosis and Treatment:
Diagnosis typically involves a sleep study, such as polysomnography, which monitors various physiological factors during sleep to confirm the presence and severity of sleep apnoea. These can be done in a clinic/hospital or in the comfort of your own home depending on the information or detail required.
Treatment options for OSA may include lifestyle modifications (e.g., weight loss, alcohol & sedative avoidance), positional therapy, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, oral appliances (MAS dental devices), and surgery (ENT or Maxillofacial surgeons).
Sleep apnoea is a prevalent sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. It can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being if left untreated. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are essential to mitigate the risks associated with this condition and improve the quality of life for those affected by it. If you suspect you or someone you know may have sleep apnoea, seeking the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional or sleep specialist is crucial for proper evaluation and treatment.
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