Sleep apnoea is a serious condition that can affect your quality of sleep and your overall health. It causes your airway to temporarily close, stopping you from being able to breathe.
The first symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is usually snoring. Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the airway, particularly at the back of the throat. If your airway narrows too much when you’re asleep, the air you breathe is then pulled through it faster. This causes the soft tissue in the back of your throat to dehydrate and vibrate. The sound you hear is what most people know as snoring.
In some cases, the airway becomes so narrow that the walls of the airway stick together and close up. This usually happens for 10-30 seconds but can occur for longer – sometimes up to 50 times an hour or even more. When the airway finally opens up again, you’ll produce a loud, violent snore. This is known as an apnoea. Sometimes the airway may not fully close, but becomes so narrow that you experience an oxygen drop in your blood. This is called a hypopnoea. Frequent apnoeas and hypopnoeas mean you most likely have OSA.
Throughout the night, your body will constantly ‘wake itself up’ to a lighter stage of sleep in order to breathe. This is why many people with OSA feel so tired the following day.