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Some additional information in one line

Sleep Apnea FAQs

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea (also spelt sleep apnoea) is a common sleep disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, when normal breathing resumes, this can sometimes begin with a loud snort or choking sound.

Your breathing is affected most often when the muscles that control the upper airway relax too much during sleep. If they relax too much, the upper airway narrows and you may begin to snore. If the airway narrows even further it may become completely blocked and you temporarily stop breathing. This ‘obstructive’ apnea can last for ten seconds or more, it may happen frequently and even several hundred times a night.

Airway Open
Airway Narrow
Airway Closed

How is Sleep Apnea spelt?

There are two ways of spelling sleep apnea. The way of spelling it in the US is "sleep apnea". This is also the most common way of spelling it.

In other countries such as the UK, France, Germany "sleep apnoea" is used as well as "sleep apnea". Sleep apnoea is preferred by medical professionals. In Australia, both ways of spelling are used.

Read more here.

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

There is a wide range of symptoms caused by sleep apnea. The most common are:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Snoring
  • Poor memory

Do females have different sleep apnea symptoms?

Yes, females present with different symptoms to those commonly associated with OSA as set out below:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Restless legs
  • Morning headaches
  • Fatigue / daytime sleepiness

How can sleep apnea affect your health?

Every time an apnea occurs, your body increases its effort to breathe and your vital organs struggle for oxygen. This alerts your brain to wake up and make you breathe again. This can lead to experiencing the kind of tiredness that affects your quality of life, work and relationships. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

What are the causes of sleep apnea?

  • Throat muscle weakness causing the throat or tongue to relax more than normal during sleep.
  • Obesity (fat gathering in and around the throat in particular).
  • Obstruction in the nasal passageway or nasal congestion.
  • Relaxants such as alcohol or drugs that cause the throat muscles to relax too much.
  • Sleeping on your back (this may result in your tongue dropping to the back of the mouth).
  • Pregnancy
  • Swollen adenoids or tonsils, especially in children.
  • Medications, including sleeping tablets.
  • Age - as you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.
  • Small upper airway (large tongue, large uvula, recessed chin, excess tissue in the throat and/or soft palate).
  • Shape of your head and neck - may create a smaller than normal airway.

How does sleep apnea in Australia affect us all?

Health system costs – according to a Deloitte Access Economics report

The health system costs of sleep disorders comprise the cost of the sleep disorders themselves and the share of health costs from other conditions attributed to sleep disorders (i.e. Cardiovascular diseases, depression and injuries). The total health care cost of sleep disorders in 2010 was estimated to be $818 million. Sleep disorders cost the hospital system $96.2 million, of which 73.1% was due to sleep apnea.

In addition, people with sleep disorders access a range of medical services and use pharmaceuticals that they would not require in the absence of the sleep disorder, totalling $96.6 million in out of hospital medical costs in 2010.

The total health system cost for conditions attributed to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea in Australia was estimated to be $544 million in 2010.

Health system costs for conditions attributed to sleep disorders, 2010

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Doctors are unable to diagnose sleep apnea during a routine visit, nor can any blood test help. The only way to test for this is with a Medicare rebated sleep apnea test, which can be done at home.

Some of the signs of having sleep apnea are a good indication, as follows:

  • Has anyone said that you snore?
  • Has your partner witnessed you gasp or stop breathing during sleep?
  • Do you sometimes wake up unrefreshed in the morning?
  • Do you sometimes struggle to stay awake at the end of the day?
  • Have your energy and motivation levels decreased?
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate?

Untreated sleep apnea can:

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to two or more of these, then you are at a higher risk of having sleep apnea and should seek further medical advice.

How do I get tested for Sleep Apnea?

A test for sleep apnea can be performed in your own home and is covered by Medicare. (Please note that a sleep assessment fee may apply in some clinics.)

There are three simple steps to follow:
Step 1

Click here for a printable referral form that needs to be filled out by your doctor. You will need to bring along the referral form when you come to your appointment.

Step 2

Come into a clinic to see a Sleep Technician who will guide you as to how you wear the equipment overnight. Take home a small device (about the size of an iPhone) to record information about your sleep. It will measure factors like snoring, frequency of apneas, oxygen levels, sleep positions and more.

Step 3

An independent Sleep Physician analyses the results and provides a treatment recommendation. A highly trained Sleep Therapist will meet with you and discuss your sleep apnea test report as well as any treatment recommendations made by the Sleep Physician.

Ready to get tested?

Contact us to book a test at one of our clinics around Australia. 

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Is snoring or drowsiness causing problems in your life?

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