Current research estimates that 9-38% of the population have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)1. Being so common, I would imagine many readers either have OSA, or all know someone who does. It is a chronic condition (meaning long term) which can be present for many years before being diagnosed. OSA seems to be a hot topic on the news at the moment, with many articles speculating about what causes OSA, and the long-term effects of being untreated. This post is about what OSA is, and how you can figure out if you are at high risk.
You have Obstructive
Sleep Apnoea if you have 5 or more respiratory events per hour during sleep as measured
by a sleep study. This sleep study is either done overnight in a sleep lab, or
at home after being set up with all of the equipment in the sleep clinic. The respiratory events are caused by periodic narrowing and obstruction of the upper
airway during sleep1. This can be in part or wholly due to
anatomical impairments or deficiencies in respiratory control of breathing. It
is believed that the biggest risk factor for OSA is obesity. Simply put, being
obese can place enough pressure on the airway to cause it to collapse during
As you can
imagine, essentially stopping breathing multiple times per hour while asleep can
have an impact on how you feel during the day. Common symptoms of sleep apnoea
include excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, non-refreshing sleep, nocturia (needing
to urinate multiple times during the night), morning headache, irritability,
and memory loss2,3. Not a very enjoyable experience. Men and
women can have completely different symptoms, with women more likely to report
having insomnia and depression as compared to men who report snoring and sleepiness4.
Many people get used to these symptoms or attribute them to other disorders or everyday
If any of these
symptoms seem applicable to you or someone you know, follow the link below to
complete the questionnaires on my blog. If you score more than 11/24 on the
Epworth Sleepiness Score or more than 4/8 in the STOPBANG questionnaire you are
at an increased risk of having OSA. Go to see your GP, get a sleep study and do
the necessary to improve your health. It may be the best thing you could do for
In my next blog post I will discuss the results of a sleep study report, and what exactly all of the confusing abbreviations and numbers mean.
Links to questionnaires:
1. Senaratna, C.V., Perret, J.L, Lodge,
C.J., Lowe, A.J., Campbell, B.E., Matheson, M.C., Hamilton, G.S. & Dharmage,
S.C. 2017. Prevalence of obstructive
sleep apnea in the general population: A systematic review.. Sleep Medicine
Review, Volume 34, pp. 70-81.
Antic NA, Catcheside P, Buchan C, et al. The effect of CPAP in normalizing
daytime sleepiness, quality of life, and neurocognitive function in patients
with moderate to severe OSA. 2011. Sleep. 34(1), pp.111–119.
Romero E, Krakow B, Haynes P, Ulibarri V. Nocturia and snoring: predictive
symptoms for obstructive sleep apnea. 2010. Sleep Breath. 14(4), pp.337–343.
A. Woehrle, H., Ketheeswaran, S., Ramanan, D. & Armistead, J. 2016.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Women: Specific Issues and Interventions. Biomed
5. Johns MW. A new method for measuring daytime
sleepiness: the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. 1991. Sleep, 14, pp. 50-55.