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Sleep Apnea or Sleep Apnoea – What’s the difference?

Sleep Apnea or Sleep Apnoea - What's the difference?

Sleep Apnea and Sleep Apnoea are the same thing but the latter is how it is spelt in British English.
Sleep apnoea negatively affects the sleep of around 180,000 people in the UK. People with sleep apnoea may not even know they suffer from the disorder, as most suffers will continue to sleep, albeit with diminished quality due to disrupted sleep rhythms. Most of those who suffer from sleep apnoea are alerted to the disorder by a bed partner or by family members.

Sleep apnoea occurs when one’s breathing is repeatedly stopped during sleep or the sufferer has unusually low breathing. Pauses in breath can last from a few second to minutes; someone suffering from sleep apnoea will typically begin breathing again with a loud snort. These pauses can happen over 100 times a night. Signs of sleep apnoea are loud and chronic snoring, gasping during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, shortness of breath when waking up and frequent daytime sleepiness, no matter how long one sleeps.

Loud snoring—it’s estimated that 3.5 million people in the UK snore—does not entail that one suffers from sleep apnoea; conversely, because one does not snore doesn’t preclude the possibility that one suffers from sleep apnoea. However, if one is a chronic snorer—or frequently wakes up tired after long nights of sleep—sleep apnoea may be present.

There are three types of sleep apnoea: central sleep apnoea (CSA), obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and mixed apnoea. Central sleep apnoea is the rarest form of sleep apnoea. CSA occurs when the brain’s respiratory control centres are imbalanced during sleep. The neurological feedback mechanism that controls and monitors carbon monoxide levels in the blood fluctuates, causing pauses in breath which are broken by fast breathing—the body’s effort to release waste gases and make up for lost oxygen. Far more common than central sleep apnoea is obstructive sleep apnoea.

Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when the soft tissue around the back of one’s throat obstructs their breathing. During sleep, muscles relax. In regards to sleep apnoea, this relaxation of muscles causes the collapsible walls of tissue around one’s throat to collapse, obstructing the airway. People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea due to the likelihood of extra fat around the neck. In fact, weight loss in overweight individuals is one of the single most effective ways to combat obstructive sleep apnoea. Mixed sleep apnoea, as the name implies, is a combination of both CSA and OSA. The best way to detect for sleep apnoea is having a physician administer a polysomnogram or sleep test.

Naturopathic Tip: Sleeping on your side can help to reduce symptoms of Sleep Apnoea, as can elevating your head slightly while sleeping. There are also specific tongue and mouth exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles and prevent your airways collapsing.