Patient Information


What is Sleep Apnea?

Snoring and sleep apnea are common sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) problems that can affect your sleep, daytime health and quality of life.
We only treat between 10 and 20% of the sleep apnea patient group. This means that approximately 20 to 30% of our population has SDB.

Snoring and sleep apnea often occur together.

Your airway may:

  • Narrow
  • You may snore. This is the vibrating of your airway
  • Totally obstructed causing you to have apneic moments.

This third type of change is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is the most common type of SDB and each incident may last for 10 seconds or longer.

What happens to your airway during sleep apnea?

A patent airway is pictured below. It does not have an obstruction and air passes through the airway without any resistance


When our airway obstructs is reduces the amount of air passing through our airway and can cause our airway to vibrate as the air rushed to pass through the reduced space. It can even be fully occluded, this is caused by lack of muscle tone and gravity as we lay supine (on our backs)


An obstructed airway means we are not getting enough air. We then begin to suffocate as we can’t get enough air into our system and we awake out of our sleep. When we awake we get enough support of our airway to then fall asleep and the circle of airway obstruction happens again. This can happen numerous times during the night causing us to have sleepless nights and daytime fatigue. It also causes us to have an increased pulse rate and blood pressure which again affects our daytime patterns and finally our cardiovascular system.


Even with a partially obstructed airway we can have the following problems:

  • Each time an obstruction occurs, our body decreases the amount of oxygen it inhales and retains and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide it exhales.
  • During these moments our body wakes us up in an attempt to tell us we need more oxygen. We then awake enough to remove the obstruction and fall asleep again and the cycle of airway obstruction occurs again.
  • During airway obstruction our body does not get to totally relax. Meaning that our pulse rate, blood pressure remain elevated and even our  body's automatic response system, resulting in increasingly more severe apneas and hypopneas
  • Daytime fatigue is elevated because of our  sleep deprivation.

Signs and Symptoms from lack of sleep may include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Depression

Sleep Disorders

Do you feel excessively tired during the daytime? Do you feel run down and no energy during the daytime? There are many disorders that are known for contributing to daytime tiredness and other daytime problems. It is possible to have more than one sleep disorder affecting your health.


Snoring occurs when the muscles of the airway relax too much during sleep and vibrate (creating noise) when air passes in and out of the airway. Most people will snore at some time, however loud or chronic snoring can disrupt sleep-quality and disturb others. It is often associated with other sleep-related breathing disorders.

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) experience repetitive periods of partial or complete occlusion of their airway during sleep. Symptoms include snoring, waking unrefreshed, daytime tiredness and sometimes waking during the night choking or gasping for air. When untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease


If the sleep-wake regulators in the brain do not function correctly, causing patients to be excessively sleepy and to have unusual manifestations of REM (dream) sleep, this is called Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is often associated with a loss of muscle strength elicited by emotional factors such as laughter, anger or surprise

Periodic limb movement disorder

Patients with this condition (often unknowingly) kick or jerk their legs regularly during sleep. These abnormal leg movements may cause sleep-fragmentation and can lead to excessive daytime tiredness and disturbing others.

REM-sleep behaviour disorder

Patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder experience abnormal movements during REM (dream) sleep, such as "acting out dreams". This is a rare condition caused by abnormalities in the brain's behaviour when shifting between dream and non-dream states.

Sleep disorders in children

Sleep problems can affect children as well as adults. Children with a sleep disorder may suffer from snoring, waking unrefreshed, daytime sleepiness, hyperactivity and problems with memory, learning and concentration or have behavioural issues