Intended for healthcare professionals


A wake up call for sleep disordered breathing

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:839

Evidence of ill effects is conflicting and inconclusive

  1. John A Fleetham, Professor of medicinea
  1. a Respiratory Division, Vancouver Hospital, Vancouver, BC V5Z 3JS, Canada

    Sleep disordered breathing is characterised by recurrent obstruction of the upper airway, which results in episodic asphyxia and interruption of the normal sleep pattern. Although manifestations of sleep disordered breathing have been described for many years, the condition has achieved wider recognition only in the past decade.1 2 3 It comprises a continuum–from chronic snoring to obstructive sleep hypopnoea to severe obstructive sleep apnoea–associated with progressively increasing clinical consequences.4

    In this week's BMJ Ohayon and colleagues present data from questionnaires which confirm that sleep disordered breathing is common in Britain and is associated with increased use of medical care (p 860).5 The reported prevalence depends on the recognition threshold. A community based study by Young et al found that 2% of women and 4% of men had both daytime sleepiness and an apnoea and hypopnoea index greater than five episodes per hour.6 Thus, sleep disordered breathing is as prevalent as diseases such as asthma and diabetes, …

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