Sleep apnoea is a condition characterised by ‘stopping breathing’ for more than 10 seconds at a time while asleep. There are two types of sleep apnoea; obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and the less common central sleep apnoea (CSA). Diagnosis is confirmed by a polysomnograph or ‘sleep study’.
Typically persons with sleep apnoea will display:
- Apnoeas of between 10 sec and 2 minutes or more
- Snoring (though not always with CNS)
- Restlessness, excessive movement/ kicking while asleep
- Dry mouth/throat on waking
- Thirst overnight and/or on waking
- Waking unrefreshed and daytime tiredness/ foggy thinking
- Tendency to fall asleep in meetings and in front of the TV
- Breathlessness on exercise
Normal sleep occurs in five stages: Stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement).
Stages 3 and 4 are the most restful and deepest sleep but when a person is over-breathing, or hyperventilating, they are prevented from easily reaching these stages and primarily remain in the light and easily disturbed sleep of stages 1 and 2. A person with sleep apnoea has the added difficulty of ‘arousal’ occurring each time an apnoea finishes with a gasping breath dragging the person near to consciousness though often they remain asleep. This explains why it often takes a long time for a person to accept that they have a problem needing investigating, much to the frustration of others!
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