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Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

What is Sleep Disordered Breathing

Loud snoring can ruin a good night's rest, not only for the bed partner but also the snorer who is woken up by attempts to stop him (or her) snoring. This noise is normally generated in the throat, but its mechanism and treatment is actually extremely difficult to understand. Most doctors have had no training in this new field, and many ENT surgeons have actually never had experience with this difficult topic. Mr Vik Veer is one of two surgeons in the country who has been employed on the NHS specifically solely to treat Sleep Disordered Breathing. This page describes some of the aspects of this field, and will give you information about diagnosing and treating snoring and sleep apnoea.

snoring and obstructive sleep apnea page image

Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are conditions that are often considered to lie on opposite ends of the same spectrum. This spectrum is collectively known as Sleep Disordered Breathing.

Approximately 42% of middle-aged men snore on most nights, and roughly 4% of the population have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (otherwise known as OSA), although most do not realise this. Even those who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea, very few go on to be treated adequately.

Sleep apnoeas are when you stop breathing at night for a short period of time (about 10 seconds or so). This can happen in normal people, but in people with sleep apnoea, obstruction of breathing can happen over 5 times an hour. This means that these people partly wake up about once every 10 minutes whilst they sleep. People with sleep apnoea are unaware of the vast majority of these events, but occasionally bed partners will witness some of the more severe episodes as an obvious cessation of breathing. You can imagine what effect this has on someone who is unable to get a proper night’s rest if they are being woken up every 10 minutes at its most mildest form. Some people really suffer, and are woken up more than once a minute on average all night. This leads to disabling tiredness and terrible consequences to the body as it tries to deal with this problem.

A disease that lies between snoring and sleep apnoea on the spectrum is known as Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome (UARS). This entity has not been defined conclusively, but in simple terms these people do not completely stop breathing at night but there is a difficulty in breathing properly. Think of it as a very narrow airway that is difficult to pass air through with each breath. This typically produces a deep breathing noise at night rather than silent breathing. Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome is also treated on the NHS (in very few centres), as it also causes significant problems for patients. Mr Vik Veer believes that rather than it being on the same spectrum, UARS should be considered as a separate entity of its own, as these patients feel just as bad as some sleep apnoea patients.

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Read the next topic - Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea


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