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Sleep apnea syndrome

With sleep apnea syndrome (which is often referred as SAHS , English acronym for sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome ) is the set of episodes that cause dysfunction or respiratory alterations during sleep , this can cause a ‘ excessive daytime sleepiness .

L ‘ apnea is a suspension of the breath for a period of several seconds, the hypopnea instead is the reduction of the breath. To re-enter the syndrome, it was calculated, with a study of the patients, that at least 10 or 15 episodes, per night, of such abnormalities (5 in the pediatric age) are needed; they are accompanied by a decrease in oxygen saturation .

In the DSM -5 (2013) they are classified as sleep disorders related to breathing .


According to some estimates made in the USA, in the US population there are between two and five million people who are afflicted by this syndrome, which is constantly growing. It affects mostly elderly and overweight men.


In the anamnesis we can find, as a symptom, snoring , while among the risk factors there are hypertension and obesity .

Moreover, the conditions that facilitate this syndrome are the supine position during sleep, the use of sedatives , nasal obstruction and hypothyroidism .


Difficulty sleeping during the night, excessive daytime sleepiness , fatigue, loss of memory, problems with concentration and impotence. Subjects with short and wide skulls (brachycephalic) also have shorter airways, which clog more easily and are therefore more susceptible to apnea.


The types of sleep apnea syndrome are subdivided, according to the various causes that determine them, in:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea . It is due to an airway occlusion; in this class we find the majority of those affected by the syndrome, which, in the majority of cases, are affected by a structural stenosis of the respiratory tract (for example, at the nasal or palatine level), but also mandibular deformations;
  • Central type of apnea . It consists in an absence of respiratory activity, due to a transient loss of the nervous stimulus directed towards the respiratory muscles during the period of sleep. These cases are infrequent, except in premature babies, and are usually due to neurological or neuromuscular problems.
  • Mixed-type nocturnal apnea: it falls under this definition if the two factors listed above appear to be associated.


  • Principles of internal medicine , Italian edition edited by Piersandro Riboldi and Massimo Vanoli ISBN 88-386-2456-9

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