Sleep apnoea is a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep.
It is caused by the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relaxing and collapsing, resulting in a blockage of the airway for ten seconds or more.
According to the NHS, there are a number of causes of the problem, including being overweight, having a large neck and drinking. The condition is also traditionally associated with men more than women, although no data on why this is the case exists.
People should be aiming to get between six and eight hours of sleep a night in order to function properly. As part of this, 15 to 25 per cent of this should be the deepest phase, but sleep apnoea can affect this.
What are this signs?
The British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association lists a series of symptoms that can point to the existence of the condition. These include very loud snoring, excessive sleepiness in the daytime and irritability.
Although the condition varies from mild to severe, people need to undergo a sleep study in bed in order to ascertain how badly affected they are.
Do treatments exist?
In mild and moderate cases, the problem can be controlled through weight loss and a mandibular advancement device. If the condition is more severe, then a nasal continuous positive airway pressure - which is seen as the gold standard treatment - can be prescribed.
It is generally though that men struggle with sleep apnoea more than women. However, recent research published in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that ladies with hypertension and/or obesity issues can be left susceptible to it.
Some 80 per cent of women studied - aged between 20 and 70 - had problems with sleep apnoea.
Lead author of the study Professor Karl Franklin said: "These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnoea and obesity and hypertension in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder."
Posted by Elizabeth Mewes