Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where an individuals stops or pauses breathing throughout the night and occurs when the passage-way becomes blocks or obstructed for a short period of time. 

These pauses can last up to a few seconds, multiple times throughout the night and is often followed by a loud snore or choking sound as the individual resumes breathing again. 

OSA is a serious health condition that is often overlooked in terms of severity and chronicity. 

This condition is often left untreated for a long period of time, and generally diagnosed after another person points out the loud snoring a choking sound throughout the night. 

Signs and Symptoms:

An individual with OSA will often report unusual and excessive tiredness throughout the day, headaches, impaired alertness and concentration, restlessness and is at a greater risk of developing a range of chronic health conditions and co-morbidities. 

Individuals with OSA are at an increased risk of developing:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure 
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired vision

These chronic health conditions are serious and have the potential to increase mortality rates and can lead to other health conditions. They also place a large burden on the healthcare system (literally billions of dollars every year just in Australia alone). 

Risk Factors include:

  • Being male
  • Age over 40
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Large neck circumference (over 40cm for male, 43cm for female)
  • Sinus problems
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Family history
  • Most importantly, those who smoke are 3 times more likely to develop OSA than those who do not. 

Evening consumption of alcohol and sedatives can also increase the risk of developing  OSA as they relax the muscles through the neck and breathing passage ways. 


A diagnosis must be made by the relevant health practitioner and an overnight sleep study is usually required to determine how many times per night the individual pauses breathing overnight. there are many other factors to consider when determining an OSA diagnosis. 

Once a diagnosis is made, the individual will often require a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) Machine to help deliver constant and steady air pressure throughout the night and will reduce the frequency of paused or blocked breaths.

If you fit the criteria for being at risk of OSA, it is important you discuss this health condition with your Doctor to reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions later down the track, ensuring you stay as healthy as possible as you age! 

How can an Exercise Physiologist help?

As Exercise Physiologists, we specialise in the delivery and prescription of exercise to assist with managing many chronic health conditions, such as those listed above. 

When prescribed correctly, exercise has the potential to reduce the risk of developing many chronic health conditions, reduce the risk of obesity and improve mortality rates.

If you are considering an exercise plan, be sure to discuss this with your GP and Exercise Physiologist. This will ensure you are getting the best treatment possible, specific to your health needs.

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