Sleep Apnea Syndrome

There are people who, in addition to snoring, repeatedly suffer breathing pauses whose duration may be variable. Of greater medical importance are those whose period is greater than 10 seconds. These can sometimes reach 60 or 120 seconds. It is characteristic of the apnea that these pauses are intercalated between the snoring.


The appearance of the apneas is due to the existence of a total or almost total collapse (it is then spoken of hypopneas) inside the pharynx. The apneas suppose a temporary cessation of respiration and should not be confused with the cardiorespiratory arrest since during apneas the heart continues to beat. When breathing stops, there is often a temporary drop in oxygen levels in the blood. If apneas are very common, the affected person will stay well at night with low blood oxygen levels.

Fragmentation of sleep

One of the most significant consequences of apnea is the fragmentation of sleep: every time there is an apnea, it ends with a warning of a few seconds of duration, less than the time necessary for us to remember it in the morning. The succession of these micro-alleviations (at least as many as apneas) causes the person who suffers them to wake up with the sensation of not having rested, even when they do not remember waking up as such at night. He usually feels a headache when waking up (that improves after a few hours), as well as dryness of mouth. Throughout the day you feel tired and notice drowsiness in sedentary situations. The existence of an increased risk of traffic accidents (up to seven times higher than the normal population) and accidents at work is characteristic. Mood changes such as irritability, depression, impaired performance, or loss of concentration and memory may also occur.

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Risks and diseases

The risk of developing this picture increases with age, reaching a maximum value between the fifth and seventh decade of life. The predisposing factors are the same as snoring, and almost everyone who suffers from sleep apnea is more or less overweight. It is, on the other hand, a typically male disease, with an incidence in men 2.5 times higher than that of women, although from menopause increases the incidence in women.

Information about symptoms of sleep apnea

The essential test for diagnosing sleep apnea is a sleep study, the polysomnography being the most accurate and the most information. It requires spending a night in a sleep center, and it is possible that the fact of sleeping there affects the way you fall asleep. However, the essential thing is not so much to study how to sleep, but how to breathe while sleeping. A measurement of the respiratory flow, the effort that is made to breathe, the level of oxygenation of the blood, the functioning of the heart and the quality of the dream is carried out. Without this test, it is impossible to exclude a sleep apnea pattern.

Nazia Bibi

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    November 2018
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