Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea, depending on which part of the world you come from) is derived from the Greek: a- without; and pnoea- breathing. As the name suggests, sleep apnea describes a condition where the patient ceases to breathe while asleep.
This cessation in breathing can occur for one of two reasons. Most comonly, sleep apnea is as a result of an obstruction to the airway. The obstruction is normally because the tongue, soft palate, uvula and/or soft tissue of the pharyngeal airway have relaxed or collapsed and blocked the flow of air.
The other form of apnea is central apnea. This is a rarer form of apnea, but no less dangerous. People suffering from central apnea do not have the normal breathing reflex of a healthy human and so do not draw breath as and when they should. This is a neurological rather than physical condition and requires extensive treatment.
Some patients suffer from a condition known as 'mixed apnea' or 'complex apnea', which describes a sleeping pattern where both obstructive and central apnea occurs.
In all cases, the side effects and consequences of sleep apnea are very serious and tend to worsen over time. For more information, visit Effects of Snoring & Apnoea.
If you suspect you or someone you know has any form of sleep apnea, call 1300 246 637 to discuss the options with a friendly treatment coordinator, or complete the form below.