What is Sleep Apnea (Syndrome)?

Uyku Apnesi (Sendromu) Nedir

Derived from the Greek word “apnea,” meaning inability to breathe or cessation of breathing, sleep apnea refers to the cessation and resumption of breathing during sleep. It is classified under sleep-related breathing disorders.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

Central Sleep Apnea Syndrome:

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing. In this type, respiratory movements and airflow stop for at least 10 seconds.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS):

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to blockages in the upper airways during sleep, leading to partial or complete cessation of airflow. Although airflow may completely stop, respiratory effort continues.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome:

Complex sleep apnea is defined as a combination of the other two types. In this type, respiratory efforts persist, but short central respiratory arrests occur.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

As a result of breathing cessation, oxygen levels in the blood decrease, prompting the brain to reduce sleep depth and attempt to restart breathing. While individuals may not recall this process, it disrupts sleep quality, leading to morning fatigue. The three main symptoms of sleep apnea are:

Persistent and Long-Term Snoring:

Snoring is a common and persistent symptom of sleep apnea.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and Unrefreshing Sleep:

Individuals may experience extreme sleepiness during the day and wake up feeling unrefreshed.

Observation of Breathing Pauses by Others:

Family members or bed partners may notice pauses in the individual’s breathing during sleep.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up with a choking sensation or palpitations, frequent nighttime urination, morning headaches, weakness, depression, and irritability.

Negative Effects of Sleep Apnea:

Sleep apnea significantly affects the cardiovascular, nervous, and hormonal systems. Decreased oxygen levels during apnea episodes lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, contributing to the development of serious conditions such as heart attacks, hypertension, strokes, and elevated insulin levels.

Disturbances in sleep quality due to sleep apnea result in various systemic impairments, causing issues such as headaches, depression, forgetfulness, difficulty making decisions, and decreased libido.

Excessive daytime sleepiness due to sleep disorders plays a crucial role in traffic and workplace accidents.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea:

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is made through examinations and assessments by Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialists. The results of a sleep study called polysomnography, conducted overnight in a sleep laboratory, are crucial for evaluation.

Polysomnography Device (PSG):

This device, widely used in sleep apnea treatment, involves attaching various electrodes around the patient’s head, nose, chest, and abdomen. It records various parameters during sleep, including respiratory movements through the nose and mouth, respiratory rhythm, oxygen levels, heart rate and rhythm, chest and abdominal movements, and brain wave characteristics.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea:

Eliminating factors that trigger apnea formation is crucial in sleep apnea treatment. This may include:

Losing weight to prevent airway obstruction

Paying attention to sleeping positions to avoid triggering apnea while sleeping on the back

Avoiding the use of alcohol and sedative medications before sleep

Treating diseases that contribute to the development of sleep apnea

Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Therapy:

One effective treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a PAP device to open narrowed airways. PAP therapy involves using a mask and hose, with various types of masks (nasal or oral) available.

Oral Appliance Therapy:

This treatment involves placing various devices inside the mouth, such as tongue-retaining devices or mandibular advancement devices. The aim is to alter positions that contribute to breathing cessation.


Sümbül, H. (2017). Development of a diagnostic method for sleep apnea and COPD diseases. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation) Karabük University Institute of Science and Technology Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Karabük.

Turkish Thoracic Society – Sleep Apnea Patient Brochure (PDF)


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