What is sleep apnoea?
“Apnoea” means temporary cessation of breathing. In obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), frequent pauses of breathing occur during sleep due to closure of the air passage in the pharynx.
OSAS is diagnosed by sleep monitoring (polysomnography).
Heavy snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness are common symptoms of OSAS.
What causes sleep apnoea?
Obesity, the natural shape and size of the pharynx, nasal obstruction, alcohol and hypnotic drugs may all contribute to OSAS.
Genetic factors influencing the shape of the facial bones may also be linked to OSAS.
As OSAS is related to obesity, measures aimed at reducing excess weight may help to prevent it.
Treatment of sleep apnoea
The best treatment for OSAS is nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP).
For nCPAP therapy, a machine supplies a stream of air via a mask which fits over the nose and the air pressure keeps the throat open during the night.
Oral appliances can be used to help enlarge the airways.
These devices are less effective than nCPAP but can be better accepted by patients.