Raj Kundhi, Senior Physiologist, AXA Health

Sleep Apnoea: Understanding the Condition and Exploring Treatment Options


15 August 2023

Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people in the UK and worldwide1. It is characterised by interruptions in breathing during sleep, leading to poor-quality rest and potential health risks.

Raj Kundhi, senior physiologist at AXA Health, delves into the details of sleep apnoea, its types, symptoms, causes, and most importantly, the treatment options.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition marked by repeated episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep.

These interruptions, called apnoeas, occur when the upper airway becomes partially or completely blocked, restricting the flow of oxygen to the lungs. As a result, the individual experiences brief awakenings or shallow sleep, preventing them from reaching the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep2.

Types of sleep apnoea

These are the three types of sleep apnoea3:

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA): This is the most prevalent form of sleep apnoea. It occurs when the throat muscles relax, causing the airway to collapse or become blocked. OSA is often characterized by loud snoring, gasping, or choking sounds as the individual struggles to breathe.

2. Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA): In CSA, the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing. As a result, the individual temporarily stops breathing. Unlike OSA, there is no physical blockage in the airway.

3. Complex sleep apnoea syndrome (mixed sleep apnoea): Also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnoea, this type is a combination of both OSA and CSA. It typically starts as OSA and later develops into CSA with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment.

Signs and symptoms

Sleep apnoea can have a significant impact on someone's wellbeing. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Loud, chronic snoring.
  2. Pauses in breathing during sleep, often witnessed by a bed partner.
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
  4. Morning headaches.
  5. Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking.
  6. Difficulty concentrating or experiencing memory problems.
  7. Irritability, mood swings, or depression.
  8. Decreased libido or sexual dysfunction.

Treatment options

Effective treatment is crucial for managing sleep apnoea and reducing its associated health risks. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the type of sleep apnoea diagnosed4.

Here are some common approaches:

Lifestyle changes

In mild cases of sleep apnoea, lifestyle changes can often make a significant difference. These changes include weight loss, regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, sleeping on your side, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnoea. It involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep, which delivers a continuous flow of air pressure to keep the airway open.

Oral appliances

Dentists can provide oral appliances that help keep the airway open by repositioning the jaw or tongue. These devices are typically used for mild to moderate cases of sleep apnoea or for those who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy.

Other therapies

For individuals with central sleep apnoea or complex sleep apnoea syndrome, additional treatment options may include adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV), bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP), or medications to stimulate breathing.

It's important to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you have sleep apnoea. They can conduct a sleep study and recommend the most suitable treatment option based on your individual circumstances.

Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

Ignoring the condition can lead to a range of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even an increased risk of accidents due to daytime sleepiness.

With various treatment options available, it is possible to manage sleep apnoea effectively and improve the quality of sleep and overall wellbeing.

If you suspect you or a loved one may have sleep apnoea, don't hesitate to seek medical advice and take the necessary steps towards a better night's sleep.

Read more about sleep in our sleep hub.


  1. How many people have sleep Apnoea? - Sleep Apnoea Trust 
  2. Sleep Apnoea – NHS
  3. Different types of Sleep Apnoea – Sleep Foundation
  4. Sleep Apnoea treatments - WebMD

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