Health Information

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

OSA is a common sleep disorder and is characterised by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep or abnormally shallow breathing during sleep. The breathing pauses are called apnoeas and the periods of low breathing are called hypopneas. These breathing pauses may last up to a minute and may occur many times every hour. With each breathing pause, oxygen levels are typically reduced and at the end of the pause, a person momentarily wakes from sleep to begin breathing normally again. OSA is often accompanied by snoring.

Due to low oxygen levels and frequent awakenings caused by OSA, a person will often have symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, restless sleep, decreased concentration and memory, lethargy or low mood/depression. An individual with sleep apnoea is often unaware they are having breathing pauses during sleep and thus, the bed partner is often the one to recognise the problem. Untreated OSA that is moderate to severe in nature is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. It may also cause or contribute to other conditions such diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction, etc.

OSA is diagnosed by an inpatient sleep study or home based sleep study. The most effective treatment for moderate to severe OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP consists of a small machine that administers air via a small mask worn over the nose, at the base of the nose, or over the nose and mouth.

The CPAP machine administers enough air pressure to prevent airway collapse. Alternative treatment options for OSA include Mandibular Advancement Splints (dental appliances), Provent nasal micro valves, upper airway surgery, positional therapy and weight loss.

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