What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep efficiency issue caused by disruptions to breathing while you sleep. One single Apnea event involves a complete or partial blockage of the airway for 10 seconds or more. Once these blockages occur, the brain will respond by waking you up to get you breathing again. This is a good response, but when it starts happening too frequently, it will lead to inefficient sleep which can lead to other complications.


Does it usually wake people up during the night?

The standard arousal mechanism for sleep apnea is a very brief one and not remembered. It is not uncommon to see people have beyond 30 of these micro arousals per hour, but one does not remember every single one of these. These continual arousals will usually evolve into restless sleep and be a cause of waking. Sleep apnea sufferers are also prone to waking up during the the night for the toilet. It is common for sufferers to get up for the toilet more than twice in an evening.

While sleep apnea can and often does cause wakefulness during the evening, there are other causes that should be considered.


Can sleep apnea kill you?

Stopping breathing for an extended period of time will eventually lead to death. Thankfully though, we have mechanisms inside us that wake us before this point. In principle, yes, sleep apnea could be fatal, however there are often other health conditions at play that lead to this fate.

When treating sleep apnea a better focus to have may be symptom improvement, general betterment of quality life and not having a partner who is constantly annoyed by your noisy, restless sleep.


What causes sleep apnea?

Good question. Generally speaking, sleep apnea is an anatomical problem of the upper airway. In times gone by, sleep apnea was considered an overweight, middle aged man issue. As the condition evolves, we are finding that anatomy is an important contributor – not just excessive weight.


How likely is it to give you heart disease?

There are varying scientific reports about whether sleep apnea will give you heart disease. It is generally thought that the stresses and strain sleep apnea puts on your body through the night could lead to heart disease. This is a good discussion to have with your Doctor.


How much help will it give if you sleep on your side, and try using a tennis ball?

The beauty of getting a quality diagnosis of sleep apnea, is that it will break down your night into body position and allow you to see for yourself what role this plays on the severity of sleep apnea. In most cases, sleep apnea is worse when sleeping on your back. This is due to gravity. There are different techniques one can use to stay off your back – including the classic tennis ball in your pyjamas. A more modern device is NightShift which uses vibrations to keep you off your back.


If you have any general questions about sleep apnea, feel free to contact us at Sleep Right Australia.

Sleep apnea? Sleep Right Australia