Adults snoring and sleep apnoea

Snoring may be annoying but, generally speaking it is not a serious condition in itself, and is very common indeed, with a number of studies showing that around a third of adults snore, with men being about twice as likely to snore than women.

Snoring can however be an indication of a more serious underlying disorder like sleep apnoea (also referred to as OSA - Obstructive Sleep Apnoea).

The word 'apnoea' is derived from the Greek word for 'to breathe' and a person with sleep apnoea can stop breathing during sleep for anything between a few seconds to a minute.

The condition is linked to a number range of health issues, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a higher risk of cancer mortality (4.8 greater than non sufferers according to a study in 2012).

People over 65 are more likely to suffer from sleep apnoea, but obesity is the major factor. Smoking and high alcohol intake are also associated with the condition.

Sleep apnoea is more common in men than in women, with around 25% of men aged over 30 in Australia suffering sleep apnoea and just under 10% of women. It often goes undiagnosed as it can only be monitored when the person is asleep.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The main symptoms of sleep apnoea are...

  • difficulty staying awake/maintaining concentration during the day
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • rapid weight gain

To diagnose sleep apnoea an overnight stay at a sleep disorders clinic is necessary, where the patient is monitored while asleep. If sleep apnoea is diagnosed, a number of treatment options may be suggested, including giving up lifestyle habits which may be causing the condition, to special breathing equipment (eg CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure – devices which hold the airways open without disrupting normal breathing). In some cases surgery may be necessary.

If you are concerned about your snoring or suspect you may have sleep apnoea, you should see your doctor or arrange a consultation with Dr Chang.