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​SLEEP APNOEA: MORE THAN JUST DISRUPTED SLEEP

 
If your partner complains that you not only snore loudly but also sound like you are choking or gasping in your sleep followed by excessive daytime sleepiness, you may have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

OSA is a common condition seen among Singaporeans, and it occurs when the upper airway is blocked during sleep and causes repeated pauses in breathing.


Being overweight is one of the main risk factors, says Dr Soh Rui Ya, Consultant for Respiratory Medicine at SKH. Especially with our increasing rate of obesity in Singapore, this sleep condition may become a worsening health problem.


Although obesity is a risk factor, not all patients are overweight. Dr Soh shares that OSA can also be found in people— especially among Asians—with certain physical features such as a small jaw and receding chin. This results in a narrower upper airway, causing snoring and increased risk of OSA. Patients also tend to be male and older.


"Those with OSA may suffer from daytime sleepiness which can impair concentration and function. This can put them at higher risk of accidents at work or when driving," warns Dr Soh.

 

Did you know?

  • 1 in 3 adult Singaporeans have moderate to severe disordered breathing during sleep.
  • Common OSA symptoms include loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep.
  • People with OSA face higher health risks such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and even sudden death.
  • Weight reduction is important in overweight patients with OSA, as adequate weight loss can reduce breathing pauses and decrease occurrences of sleep apnoea.

  

If you think you may have OSA, consult your general practitioner. If required, he will then refer you to a specialist. Depending on the specialist's assessment, you may undergo a sleep study to determine if you have the condition.


For most patients with significant OSA, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the first-line treatment option. It works by gently pumping air into your airway to keep it constantly open while you sleep.


Other treatment options include oral appliances, which may be worn during sleep to reposition the jaw and tongue, as well as surgery to widen the upper airway and improve airflow. Patients are also advised to avoid taking alcohol and sedatives before sleeping.