Snoring & OSA

Snoring and breathing problems: Effects sleep apnea has on your health

June 16, 2021
sleepless girl because of sleep apnoea

We might complain of a bad night’s sleep every once in a while. However, if you have obstructive sleep apnoea, your every night’s sleep could be troubled or disrupted

The results of a global study conducted in 2019 have shown that while Singaporeans are getting the recommended minimum hours of sleep per night, almost half of them are not having quality rest. Furthermore, 26% of Singaporeans believe they might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, yet out of these people, a quarter of them are afraid to visit an ENT specialist in Singapore to get an assessment. 

Sleep apnoea is a condition in which the sleeper experiences abnormal breathing during sleep. As such, people suffering from sleep apnoea tend to experience multiple extended pauses in breath when they sleep. These temporary breathing lapses often affect the body’s supply of oxygen, thus resulting in lower-quality sleep. When left untreated, sleep apnoea can eventually lead to potentially serious health consequences.

Because of the prevalence and potential health impacts of sleep apnoea, it is important for people to be aware of this condition, the symptoms, risk factors, as well as treatment options available.


The Types Of Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea can be categorised into three types: 

  1. Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA): CSA happens when the brain does not send signals to your muscles involved in breathing, resulting in short periods of breathing pauses. 
  2. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA): OSA occurs when the airway at the back of your throat becomes physically blocked, leading to temporary lapses in breath. 
  3. Mixed Sleep Apnoea: As the name suggests, this sleep condition refers to a person suffering from both OSA and CSA at the same time. 

Of the three types of sleep apnoea, OSA is more prevalent in Singapore. One of the common risk factors of OSA is obesity. Fat deposits in a person’s neck can block their upper airway during sleep, thus obstructing breathing. 

Patients with OSA typically suffer from severe snoring, repetitive collapse, and obstruction of their upper airway during sleep. As a result of poor sleep quality, patients with OSA also suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and often wake up feeling more tired than the night before. They also wake up with a very dry mouth and sometimes, headaches. 

People who suffer from any of three sleep apnoea may also experience problems relating to diet and weight management.  For someone not getting enough restful sleep, the hormones in their brain responsible for hunger control do not work as well. Hence, they tend to feel hungry even when they have just eaten a full meal. 


symptoms of sleep apnoea


Effects Of Sleep Apnoea On Health

However, sleepiness and snoring are just the tip of the iceberg for sleep apnoea sufferers. When left untreated, sleep apnoea can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, as well as other chronic health risks. Hence, it is often recommended for people who suspect they have sleep apnoea to visit an ENT clinic in Singapore to be properly diagnosed as soon as possible. 

Here we share some of the effects sleep apnoea has on the various parts of your body: 

  • Endocrine System

People with sleep apnoea have a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, where their cells do not respond well to the insulin hormone. This can eventually lead to a rise in blood sugar levels, putting you at risk of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, sleep apnoea has also been associated with metabolic syndrome as well as a cluster of heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. 

  • Respiratory System 

When your body is deprived of oxygen during sleep, especially in cases of sleep apnoea, symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are usually worsened. For instance, you may find yourself short of breath during a walk, or have more trouble exercising than usual. 

  • Cardiovascular System 

Since sleep apnoea has been linked to obesity and high blood pressure, increasing the strain on your heart. Patients with sleep apnoea also tend to have an abnormal heart rhythm like atrial fibrillation, thus predisposing them to strokes. Heart failure is also another common risk for people with sleep apnoea

  • Neurological System

If you have sleep apnoea, you are more likely to suffer from poor concentration and inability to focus. This affects productivity and even work performance. Studies have also shown that patients with moderate or severe sleep apnoea are also at a higher risk of getting a stroke.


Sleep apnoea effects on the body


Fortunately, there are treatment options available for patients suffering from sleep apnoea, with most ENT specialists in Singapore recommending Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. In patients with anatomical abnormalities resulting in upper airway blockage (e.g. large tonsils and adenoids or a very congested nasal cavity from turbinate hypertrophy or deviated nasal septum), surgery may be required. 


Man sleeping with a sleep apnoea equipment


In conclusion, if you or your partner has noticed signs of sleep apnoea, then it is best to visit an ENT clinic in Singapore for a sleep apnoea test, as early intervention is key in preventing potential complications. From there, your ENT specialist can better understand your condition and provide you with an accurate diagnosis, as well as tailored treatment options. 


Medically reviewed by Dr Gan


    When Should You See an ENT Specialist in Singapore?

    • Any ear, nose or throat symptoms that you are troubled with or concerned about
    • Persistent blocked nose with mouth breathing or snoring

    Dr Gan Eng Cern

    Dr Gan Eng Cern is a distinguished ENT doctor with fellowship training. In addition to his clinical practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Singapore, Dr. Gan has contributed to the academic field as a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is recognised for his extensive research work, with numerous contributions to reputable international ENT journals. Dr Gan is also highly sought after as a speaker and has shared his surgical knowledge as a surgical dissection teacher at various prominent ENT conferences and courses.


    • 2020 – Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best ENT Specialist (Expat Living Singapore)
    • 2016 – Best Educator Award (Eastern Health Alliance)
    • 2016 – “Wow” Award (Patient Compliment)
    • 2014 – Eastern Health Alliance Caring Award – Silver
    • 2014 – 19th Yahya Cohen Memorial Lectureship (awarded by the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine Singapore for best scientific surgical paper)
    • 2012 – Human Manpower Development Award (Ministry of Health, Singapore)
    • 2007 – Singhealth Best Doctor Award


    • MBBS – Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
    • MRCS (Edin) – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    • MMed (ORL) – Master of Medicine in ENT (National University of Singapore)
    • FAMS – Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

    Why Choose Dr Gan Eng Cern


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    Experienced and patient ENT Specialist who has your best interests at heart. We aim to provide you with accessible and specialized care for any ENT condition in a comfortable setting.


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