Sleep Apnoea

What Are the Causes Tell-tale Signs of Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is characterized by low breathing rates and pauses in respiration during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Each pause is termed an "hypopnoea". This condition is caused by narrow air passages leading to the lungs. One interesting characteristic of sleep apnoea is that the sufferer may be completely unaware that he or she has any difficulty breathing during their nocturnal cycle. This is common in the mild and sometimes even the more severe cases.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnoea include sleepiness during the daytime, morning headaches and problems keeping one's attention. Other physiological signs can be loud and unevenly timed snoring, insomnia, a dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening and another person noticing that one's breathing is staggered and irregular.

To briefly review, the signs that one may be suffering from seep apnoea will most often include:
  • Daytime drowsiness.
  • Loud and uneven snoring patterns.
  • Pauses in breathing noticed by another person.
  • Listlessness and a lack of attention.
  • Dry mouth and morning headaches.

Times when Treatment is Required and Different Options

For those that have a mild form of this disease, there may be little cause for alarm. However, there are instances where therapeutic options may be advisable. Examples can be when one is awakened from a deep sleep with shortness of breath or when daytime lethargy can interfere with important tasks such as driving or operating machinery. Should these instances be present, the sufferer should see a doctor.

So, treatments may be needed when:
  • One is constantly aroused from a deep sleep feeling short of breath.
  • Daytime drowsiness affects normal functioning.
  • Others are disturbed by the apnoea.

The first step will revolve around correctly diagnosing the problem. The patient will often be asked to remain overnight at a clinic so his or her sleeping patterns can be observed. A test may be administered that will record various physiological functions of the body during sleep and help determine whether this condition may be present. Assuming that the patient is diagnosed with sleep apnoea, several treatments are available.

One of the most common treatments is to use what is known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, as mentioned in the earlier article. This machine is placed over the nose during sleep and delivers a positive flow of air into the nasal passage. The CPAP will help prevent the common lapses in breath. The overall purpose is to make certain that air pressure in the nasal passages is maintained at a high level, thus allowing these airways to remain open.

However, some patients may find these devices uncomfortable and cumbersome. In these cases, sleep apnoea surgery is another option. The ultimate purpose of this surgery will be to enlarge the airway passages around the nose and throat to allow a greater influx of air. Internal tissue may be removed, one's jaw may be repositioned or plastic rods can be inserted into the soft palate that are designed to decrease the rate and severity of snoring.

Simply stated, the steps to discovering effective treatments are:
  • A proper diagnosis by doctors in a sleep clinic.
  • The use of a CPAP or a similar device that increases positive airway pressure.
  • Sleep apnoea surgery.