SINGAPORE: An estimated 15 per cent of the population in Singapore is affected by obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), one of the most common sleeping disorders.
Highlighting this ahead of the World Sleep Day on Friday, experts said the number of patients is expected to rise, with increased awareness of this condition.
OSA sufferers stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, which is caused by a blocking of the upper airway.
The collapse of the airway may be due to factors such as a large tongue or extra tissue.
Each breathing stop can last from 10 seconds to more than a minute and has a drop in oxygen associated with each event.
This puts a strain on the heart and can lead to a number of serious health conditions.
One OSA patient, 70-year-old Singaporean Wong Chiang Siang, said a good night's sleep is something he could never enjoy.
The condition caused him to always feel sleepy and sluggish in the day, and once almost cost him his life.
"One day I was driving my car, I stopped at the traffic light and there were at least four or five cars in front of me," Mr Wong said.
"I was quite sleepy so I thought ok, I'd close my eyes and I should be able to get back again. But after I closed my eyes, the next moment, somebody knocked on my window. I was shocked I saw all the cars already gone. So I must have dozed off for quite a while. That was quite scary."
This prompted Mr Wong to seek professional help where he found out he was suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea.
About 25 patients suffering from moderate to severe OSA are diagnosed each month at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
Experts said the condition needs to be treated early as it has medical and economic consequences.
OSA is not just associated with snoring but it's also associated with medical morbidities such as high blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities, heart disease and stroke.
Experts recommend that patients use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, a machine that gently blows air into one's throat with the help of a mask.
The air pressure is adjusted so that it's just enough to stop the airways from becoming narrowed or blocked during sleep.
The theme of World Sleep Day, 'Sleep Well, Grow Healthy', is aimed at highlighting the importance of sleep.
I too have difficulty to sleep for 6 hours straight. Usually sleep less than 4 hours per day.