Sleep apnoea, or obstructive sleep apnoea, happens when a person’s throat is partly or completely blocked while they are asleep, causing them to stop breathing. Their breathing can stop for anywhere between a few and 90 seconds, and they wake briefly. These episodes, which can happen many times a night, are known as apnoeas. The sufferer is often unaware of it happening, but will wake feeling tired.
Sleep apnoea ranges from mild to severe. In severe cases, sleep can be interrupted hundreds of times each night. Sleep apnoea can affect anyone, but is more common in people who are middle aged or older, who snore, who are above a healthy weight and who have sleep apnoea in the family.
People with naturally narrow throats or nasal passages, and children with enlarged tonsils or adenoids, can also have sleep apnoea.