What is obstructive sleep apnoea? Symptoms & diagnosis

01.09.2018 00:00

What is obstructive sleep apnoea? Symptoms & diagnosis!

Habitual snoring is not associated with breathing interruptions. So, in most cases it is disturbing but not harmful to health. It becomes dangerous when the snorer becomes quiet and the breathing stops for a few seconds or even minutes. As a consequence, the carbon dioxide level in the blood increases. Depending on the frequency and duration of breathing interruptions, a shortage of oxygen to the organism can result.

Sleep apnoea symptoms:

How do I know if I’m suffering from OSA? There are some signs that may indicate obstructive sleep apnoea:

  • Loud, irregular snoring: Breathing stops are usually accompanied by loud, irregular snoring. The body tries to compensate the lack of oxygen supply by deep breathing.
  • Daytime sleepiness: Do you feel exhausted and tired in the morning despite getting enough sleep? Daytime sleepiness is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea. Due to breathing stops at night, the associated arousal and temporary lack of oxygen affected people have a restless, not restful sleep at night. As a result, they feel weak and unfocused during the day. They may even fall asleep for a few seconds. Do the Epworth test to find out if you suffer from daytime sleepiness.
  • Night sweats: Those affected often sweat a lot during the night and feel thirsty the next morning.
  • Headaches: As a result of a shortage of oxygen, people struggle with morning headaches. A dry mouth in the morning can also be a sign of OSAS.
  • Loss of libido: A low sexual desire can be another sign of obstructive sleep apnoea. In men, a loss of potency can also reflect a disease.

Sleep apnoea diagnosis:

If I suspect that I am suffering from OSA, how can I diagnose a possible disease correctly?

First, make an appointment with your ENT specialist to discuss your medical history. In a detailed interview, including an examination, he or she will be able to identify special characteristics in the nose and throat. Moreover, sleep habits and other influencing factors such as overweight or the consumption of stimulants can be determined. Your bed partner can play an important role here and should thus be included in the examinations.

If necessary, the next step is a home sleep apnoea test. The patient puts on a mobile recording device before going to bed. The device records the behaviour during the night, important body activities as well as breathing stops.

In case of frequent and prolonged breathing stops, a polysomnography in the sleep laboratory is recommended. Sleep doctors carry out detailed examinations with patients during a one- to two-day stay. Abnormal recordings, e.g. of brain activity and heart rate, are measured and analysed. The apnoea-hypopnea index (AHI) determines the severity of your disease. The higher the index, the more pronounced sleep apnoea is. An AHI greater than 5/h and less than 15/h is referred to as mild obstructive sleep apnoea. An AHI greater than 15/h and less than 30/h indicates a moderate OSA, an AHI greater than 30/h classifies a severe OSA.


What helps against snoring and OSA? Find out more in our article How to deal with snoring?.

Tip: We offer proven anti snore devices against snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea.

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