What Is Sleep Apnoea?
The Greek word 'Apnoea' means 'Without Breath' which is where the name of the 'condition' called Sleep Apnoea (also spelt Apnea in some countries) is derived from. Therefore, Sleep Apnoea means stopping breathing whilst sleeping! People with Sleep Apnoea stop breathing or struggle to breathe regularly during sleep, and most are unaware of this.
Sleep Apnoea is a medical 'condition' which is only just being widely recognized in the UK. However, it is a serious 'condition', due to the other medical conditions it exacerbates, causes and is linked to, such as:-
In most cases, a person with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea will be a snorer, and mostly (unbeknown to them) will stop breathing many times a night, ranging from:-
*** AHI stands for Apnoea/Hypopnoea Index, which is the amount of times a person has an apnoea or hypopnoea PER HOUR! Apnoeas are when a person totally stops breathing and hypopnoeas are partial lack of breathing events.
The apnoeas/hypopnoeas will happen whilst sleeping, and the brain (thankfully) sends messages to the body to start breathing again. Unfortunately this cycle will repeat itself throughout the night. The sufferer will often wake up feeling unrefreshed, but will not put this down to lack of sleep, as they are usually under the impression they have slept well, due to most people being unaware of what has been happening through the night. Some people do wake up gasping or choking though. It is normally the bed partner who may notice what is going on, and many have reported of hearing their bed partner snoring, followed by a silent pause when they suspect their partner has stopped breathing (which they have!). The sufferer will then usually make a snorting, choking or gasping noise, and they will start breathing again, but the cycle will continue throughout the night. It should also be pointed out that not everyone with sleep apnoea does snore.
During apnoea/hypopnoea events, this often causes oxygen levels to drop, carbon dioxide levels to raise and the heart becomes stressed, increasing both blood pressure and heart rate. This obviously causes untold constant damage to the body, which is why it is important to treat sleep apnoea and any warning signs should not be ignored!
**Incidentally, Kath Hope of Hope2Sleep had no idea she stopped breathing at all during sleep, never woke up choking and yet her AHI (apnoea/hypopnoea index) was 30 which is just into the severe range. Even her husband never spotted it!!
A person with undiagnosed sleep apnoea may present some or all of the following symptoms:-
Causes for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
There are several different causes why a person has Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or how it can be made worse, as follows:-
Causes for Central Sleep Apnoea
(Central Sleep Apnoea is where the brain 'forgets' to send messages to the muscles to breathe and snoring is not always a sign of this). Sometimes there is no known cause.
Conditions which may be associated with central sleep apnea include the following:
Mixed Sleep or Complex Sleep Apnoea
Put simply, this is a mixture of both Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and Central Sleep Apnoea and is more complicated to treat. Sometimes Central Sleep Apnoea can become a problem when being treated for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea - often too high a CPAP pressure can actually cause central apnoeas.
If You Suspect You May Have Sleep Apnoea, there are several routes to take and the most important advice is TAKE ACTION NOW!!
Action To Take
Sleep Apnoea also affects children (possibly at least 1 in 30). Check out our dedicated page for Sleep Apnoea in Children.
Epworth Sleepiness Scale
Although not foolproof, this Epworth Sleepiness Scale is what your GP and/or a Sleep Clinic would ask you to fill in, as a screening tool to assess the likelihood of people suffering from undiagnosed Sleep Apnoea.
Please fill in this questionnaire as to how you feel most days in the following situations, as to the likelihood of you dozing off. Even if you haven’t done some of these things recently, try estimating how they may have affected you.
Use the following scale to work out your scores:-
Treatment for Sleep Apnoea
According to the 'British Lung Foundation,' "it is estimated that about 110,000 people in the UK suffer from Sleep Apnoea/Hypopnoea. Prevalence is higher in men than women and higher in those who are overweight. It affects an esimated 4% of males and 2% of females in the UK, although it is thought to be considerably higher in specific groups and occupations, such as long-distance lorry drivers and shift workers, where the consequences can be fatal or lead to serious injury if left undiagnosed and untreated. It is also esimated that only 1 in 10 patients with the syndrome have so far been diagnosed and treated. The rate of treatment in the UK is lower than most other developed countries."
According to the 'American Sleep Apnea Association,' "Sleep Apnea (Apnoea) is as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than 12 million Americans. However, because of the lack of awareness by the public and even some healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated - despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences."
Approximately 1 in 30 children are also sufferers of Sleep Apnoea, and unfortunately these children get branded with bad behaviour, learning problems and ADHD instead.
Sleep Apnoea (Apnea) is a serious condition, due to its links with other life threatening illnesses. Not only will you lower your risks of these other medical conditions, but you should start to feel so much better in yourself when you are on successful treatment.
PLEASE, FOR YOUR SAKE AND YOUR FAMILY, DO NOT IGNORE YOUR SYMPTOMS, AND SEEK MEDICAL HELP NOW!!