Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Mate hoto hau

Diagram showing how air moves through an open airway but is prevented from moving through an airway that is blocked.Normally when you go to sleep, your throat muscles hold your airway open.

If you have OSA, your throat muscles relax too much when you're asleep. This causes pauses in your breathing.

These breathing pauses can lead to disrupted sleep and reduced oxygen levels.




If you often feel very sleepy during the day or if you (or your partner) are worried about the quality of your sleep, especially if you have a job as a driver or operating machinery or aircraft, make an appointment with your general practice team as soon as possible.

While OSA can affect anybody, it's more common in middle-aged people, especially men and people who are overweight and who snore.

Symptoms of OSA

Symptoms of OSA include:

If untreated, OSA can cause:

Diagnosing OSA

Your general practice team will ask you questions about your symptoms and examine you.

They may also ask you to complete a questionnaire called the Epworth sleepiness score (ESS).

If they're concerned about OSA, they will arrange for you to have a Sleep assessment.

Self-care for OSA

If you're overweight, try to lose weight. Losing weight may improve your symptoms as well as improving your health in general. You should also:

Treating OSA

As well as self-care measures, if you have severe OSA or other medical issues or drive or operate machinery or aircraft for a living, you'll need medical treatment.

  HealthInfo recommends the following videos

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Sleep Assessment

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2022.


Page reference: 1057180

Review key: HIOSA-12505