Sleep Apnea

Apnea means absence of breath. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway in the throat collapses during sleep reducing airfow or completely blocking the airway. This disrupts sleep and reduces oxygen supply to vital organs.

Severe sleep apnea affects about 5% of adults. Mild to moderate forms occur in 20% of adults. There can be various reasons why a person may stop breathing in their sleep. Learn more below.


Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms

Things to know about sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway collapses during sleep. Although the person is making an effort to breathe the airway is blocked and breathing is prevented. 

Central Sleep Apnea 

In Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) there is no obstruction in the airway. CSA is rare and results when the signals from the brain to regulate breathing are disrupted.

Oral Appliances 

(also known as Mandibular Advancement Devices) Oral appliances are indicated for those with mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They may be also used in people with severe OSA who are unable to tolerate a CPAP machine.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure


 (or CPAP) is used to treat OSA, and may sometimes be effective in CSA. This is a machine that produces air at a high enough pressure to hold the airways open. There are fixed pressure CPAP machines, and automatic machines that adjust the pressure upwards only when you stop breathing. Some models allow completely different pressures for inhaling and exhaling (BiPAP).

Childhood Sleep and Snoring

You don't often think of children snoring or suffering from sleep apnea, but surprisingly a number do. The condition can be serious and may lead to health problems such as failure to thrive, developmental delay or behavioural problems.


Snoring occurs when air does not flow smoothly through the air passages, or when the soft tissues in your throat vibrate during sleep. Snoring can occur in all age groups, but the largest affected group is the middle aged. Snoring may be associated with long term health problems such as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Related Risks

Sleep apnea and sleep deprivation, whether reduced quantity or disturbed quality, may be a contributing factor in other diseases, such as High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Obesity and Nocturia.

Things to Avoid

There are things that can make sleep apnea worse, and even if you are on CPAP treatment, they should be avoided. Alcohol relaxes muscles and may worsen apnea, as may sleeping tablets which depress the drive to breathe. A person’s normal CPAP pressure may be insufficient if the person is under the effects of alcohol or sleeping tablets. Other things that disrupt sleep such as caffeine or late night eating should also be avoided.

In this presentation for Sleep Apnea Awareness Day 2020, Mark Johnson explains what CPAP therapy for sleep apnea is and how it works. If you are new to CPAP or are finding it difficult you may find this video helpful.

EVER WONDERED WHAT AN ORAL APPLIANCE FOR SLEEP APNEA IS AND HOW IT WORKS? Dentist Dr Damian Teo was live during the Sleep Apnea Awareness Day 2020. In this video presentation, Dr Teo explains what a MAS appliance is and how it works. How much they cost and what the pros and cons are between over the counter oral appliances vs custom made (by a dentist) and more.

SDA Chairperson Michelle Chadwick spoke to ENT Specialist Dr David McIntosh about sleep and airway obstruction in children and adults.

  • What causes airway obstruction and what can be done about it?

  • What the impacts are on cognition, behaviour, and other physical conditions as a consequence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB)?

  • What the signs are of OSA and SDB in children and common misdiagnosis?

CPAP Buddy Program

CPAP can be a difficult therapy to get used to and typically requires persistence and support. For those that can use CPAP it can make an incredible difference to one's life. Our CPAP Buddy Program aims to connect established CPAP users to new users, with the hope of supporting them through their initial use of the machine. The people listed below are experienced CPAP users who know how tough the journey can be. They are kind enough to make themselves available to you in your time of need and have provided their contact details to help new users as much as they can. 

Karen Grainger - 
Joe Soda - (07) 3378 1610 or 0415 486 587

Arthur Hunt - (07) 4939 1332 (North Qld)


CPAP Cleaning and Maintenance


Regular cleaning of your CPAP machine and its components is important for the function and longevity of your equipment. Learn more here

For information in general about sleep apnea please contact our Sleep Apnea Team

Sleep Apnea Awareness Day 5 May
Sleep Apnea Consquences
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