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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is sleep apnea?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1

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    Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile

    Sleep apnea occurs when occurs when the walls of the throat collapse and/or come together, thus blocking the upper part of the airway. A person with sleep apnea can wake several times a night without knowing and can often been described as ‘gasping for air’.   Symptoms can include daytime tiredness and poor concentration. Long term sleep apnea has been linked with high blood pressure and obesity.
     
    Being overweight, as well as medications and alcohol have been linked with an increased risk of sleep apnea. If you are concerned about your sleep visit your GP for further investigation. Sleep apnea occurs when occurs when the walls of the throat collapse and/or come together, thus blocking the upper part of the airway. A person with sleep apnea can wake several times a night without knowing and can often been described as ‘gasping for air’.   Symptoms can include daytime tiredness and poor concentration. Long term sleep apnea has been linked with high blood pressure and obesity.
     

  • 1

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    Dr. Smariti Kapila

    Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon

    Dr Kapila is an ENT Surgeon, who manages many general ENT issues such as: Snoring Tonsillitis Ear infections - otitis media and externa Glue ear … View Profile

    That's right Kirsty, ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’ results in periodic blocking of the airway, especially when the patient falls into the deep sleep phase.  

    It is certainly made worse by being overweight, or alcohol, usually in combination with narrowing of the airway anywhere along it's course, for example:

    • nose - adenoids, congestion, septal deviation
    • mouth - tonsils, soft palate, tongue, throat muscles

    Relaxation during the deep sleep phase causes collapse, and blockage causes the blood oxygen to drop.  When the body notices this, it makes efforts to increase the airflow, ultimately waking the patient up.

    The repeated low oxygen levels and the lack of deep restful sleep result in waking tired, daytime tiredness, poor concentration even in children, and in adults, are linked with blood pressure and cardiac issues.

  • 1

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    Dr Maree Barnes

    Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician

    Dr Barnes has competed specialty training in sleep medicine and is currently working at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. Dr Barnes’ current research focuses are: … View Profile

    Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway closes over and blocks breatihng during sleep. The flow of air can be partially or completely blocked. This causes the oxygen level in the blood to fall, then the muscles of the upper airway work harder to pop open the airway and normal breathing resumes, usually with a big gasp or a snort. This sequence of events occurs repeatedly throughout the night, sometimes as many as 100 times each hour, more than once per minute. It is normal to stop breathing up to 5 times per hour for at least 10 seconds, but any more than that suggests that there is a serious underlying problem. The cause of sleep apnoea varies from person to person. Although it may be caused by a narrow airway, it is usually caused by several different factors. People who are overweight are much more likely to have sleep apnoea. This is because a large belly will press on the diaphragm and compress the lungs. This causes the airway to collapse more easily during the night. Men are more likely to have sleep apnoea and it is more common with age.
    The most common symptom of sleep apnoea is snoring, but only about 70% patients with sleep apnoea snore and you can snore without having sleep apnoea. Other common symptoms are being very sleepy during the day, being observed to stop breathing during the night, waking up from sleep feeling unrefreshed and being a restless sleeper.
    If you think you have sleep apnoea, it is important to see your doctor to discuss this. You will likely be referred to a sleep specialist, who can order a test to monitor your sleep and breathing overnight to confirm the diagnosis.
    Consequences of untreated sleep apnoea include high blood pressure, heart disease, lack of concentration, irritability, depression and poor memory.

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