Intermittent reduction of the breathing pattern during sleep is sometimes called sleep apnoea. There are two types of sleep apnoea: obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnoea. As suggested by its name, central sleep apnoea is associated with the brain's control of the breathing cycle during sleep, whereas obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with intermittent but recurrent obstruction of the upper airways during sleep. Examples of central sleep apnoea include Cheyne-Stokes breathing and a response to high altitude.1
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. In addition, it is the most common identified condition causing sleepiness during the day.2
It is thought that around three per cent of the middle-aged population suffer from obstruction of the upper airways during sleep.3 Children as well as adults can be affected and the resulting disturbance of sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness. This can cause problems with attention span and concentration and has been associated with an increased risk of being involved in road traffic accidents. It can also be associated with cardiovascular and metabolic complications.4
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