What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

In obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the muscles at the back of the throat relax during sleep so that part of the airway is closed off. This causes the person to stop breathing, then partially wake before starting breathing again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times during sleep, reducing the quality and benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Illustration courtesy of diabetichealthclinic.org

People with OSA experience snoring, daytime sleepiness, altered mood and morning headaches, which in turn can result in poor work performance, and work and motor vehicle accidents. There is also an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), vascular diseases and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). For children, untreated OSA can also affect cardiovascular health, and impairs their development, behaviour and learning. OSA is considered a contributor to overall health loss and a risk factor for other life-limiting conditions (coronary heart disease, ischaemic stroke, type 2 diabetes).

For the latest statistics on OSA in New Zealand, click here.