Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is an all-purpose term for a spectrum of sleep-related breathing abnormalities, many of which are linked to increased upper airway resistance. SDB difficulties can range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnoea (or hypopnoea), which involves repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep. It is a relatively common disorder, affecting up to 1 in 20 adults.
Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnoea – but not all patients who snore have sleep apnoea. Often, though, it is the snoring that first brings them to a clinician or GP. Early treatment for snoring may include support to modify potential lifestyle factors – including obesity and alcohol consumption – which may reduce or eliminate the snoring completely.
With treatment, patients will benefit from improved sleep patterns and can expect to experience increased feelings of vitality, more energy, and improved concentration.
Obstructive sleep apnoea can have potentially serious consequences on personal wellbeing and lifestyle, if left untreated. The condition is characterised by pauses (apnoeas) in breathing during sleep, caused when the muscles supporting the airway relax, blocking the throat and preventing air from entering the lungs.
People with untreated sleep apnoea are generally not aware of any pauses in breathing, but they may realise that they snore or gasp for air during sleep, and are sleepy during the day.
Other symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, morning headaches, frequent need to urinate at night (called nocturia), libido problems, high blood pressure and weight gain.
These symptoms can potentially lead to other serious health problems, such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart failure
- brain damage or depression.
Because excessive daytime sleepiness adversely affects cognitive function, it could result in job impairment and traffic accidents.