Public Education

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

This Article Appears In Only Health Magazine, Mar/Apr 2011 Issue.

By Dr Yap Yoke Yeow

During sleep, the brain and body goes through various stages of rest and recovery. As sleep deepens and our muscles relax, the soft tissues of the airway also progressively lose tone over time as we grow older.

Sometimes, this relaxation of the upper airway muscles can cause the airway to narrow significantly or even obstruct it completely. This can happen many times during sleep and even cut off the supply of oxygen to our lungs periodically.

To ensure we are able to continue breathing, our brain would then interrupt the sleep cycle and ‘wake’ us up so that the airflow is restored. As such, our sleep isn’t as restful as it should be and people who suffer from this ailment could wake up still feeling tired.

Medically described as apnoea, it is defined as the absence of airflow through the nose or mouth for more than 10 seconds at a time. When one experiences more than 30 episodes of apnoea in seven hours of sleep, that constitutes sleep apnoea syndrome.


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