Sleep apnoea is a serious affliction that causes respiratory stoppage at night. Breathing may even stop for up to two minutes. Of the large population of snorers, only a small percentage has sleep apnoea. They don’t notice the respiratory stoppage otherwise – at least, not at night. During the day, they are often tired and fall asleep when reading a book or watching TV. Some even fall asleep when driving a car! People with sleep apnoea are also often irritable during the day. They don’t get enough rest at night, so they don’t have enough energy to function well during the day.

What causes sleep apnoea?

With sleep apnoea, there is a brief blockage of the airways. This occurs because the airways are already narrow, possibly because of obesity or an hereditary affliction. The use of sleeping medication can also be counter-productive. Alcohol prior to sleep also has a negative effect on snoring. It relaxes the muscles in the throat, making it easier for a constriction to occur.

Complaints from sleep apnoea

Complaints due to sleep apnoea are often quite general such as fatigue, loss of concentration and high blood pressure. Since a person with sleep apnoea has no complaints at night, it’s relatively unlikely that a doctor will ascribe these symptoms to this affliction. Often, people with sleep apnoea are overweight, which can also cause high blood pressure. Fatigue and loss of concentration may also have other causes, including stress. If you are a snorer and have these complaints, then you are well advised to consult a physician. Untreated apnoea can have particularly harmful consequences.

Treating sleep apnoea

To treat sleep apnoea, a “CPAP” machine is usually used. This blows a small amount of air softly into the airways, causing these to remain open. The apnoea (and the snoring) then disappears. One must continue to use this device to retain the same effect. Furthermore, for overweight people, a strict diet or even a stomach stapling may be prescribed to reduce the complaints.

If you suspect sleep apnoea, always consult a physician!