What exactly is sleep apnoea?
Normally the muscles that control the upper airway relax during sleep. If they relax too much the upper airway becomes too narrow and some people begin to snore. If the airway becomes too narrow, this may cause breathing difficulties. Sometimes the airway becomes completely blocked and the person temporarily stops breathing, experiencing an ‘obstructive apnoea’. This can last for ten seconds or more. It may happen frequently – even several hundred times a night.
If you have this condition, every time an apnoea occurs you struggle to breathe, placing stress on your brain and heart. Night after night your sleep is disrupted. You experience the kind of tiredness that affects the quality of your work, life and relationships. Your partner may hear the tell-tale signs of sleep apnoea while you sleep – snoring followed by a period of silence, and then, perhaps a loud snort or a gasp as you resume breathing.
Serious health risks
Research shows that OSA is associated with many serious health conditions.
- More than one in three people with high blood pressure suffer from OSA1 and more than 80% of people with drug-resistant high blood pressure have OSA.2
- A person with sleep apnoea is seven times more likely to have a stroke than a person without OSA.3
- Some studies have shown that OSA was prevalent in over 60% of stroke patients compared to 4% in the middle-aged adult population.4
- Half of all people with congestive heart failure have OSA.
Effects of OSA on the Cardiovascular System
Ref: Florus, J.S., Bradley, T.D., Sleep apnea and heart failure Part I: Obstructive sleep apnea. Circulation, 2003; 107:1671-1678.
These processes (among other effects) lead to damage to blood vessels, damage to heart muscle, increased risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and stroke.
© ResMed 2011 Used with Permission.
Successful CPAP treatment has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and prevent fatal heart attack in patients with OSA when compared with people with OSA who were not treated with CPAP.6
- Sjostrom et.al., 2002.
- Logan et.al, 2001.
- Bassetti et.al., 1999.
- Mohserin v, et.a.l, Arch Phys Med Rehabil (1995), Dyken M.E. et.al., Stroke, 1996.
- Butt, et.al, Hypertension, 2011.
- Marin, et.al., Lancet, 2005.