Apnoea discovery could help severe snorers

Dr Danny Eckert and his team have found previously unknown causes of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which means new treatments could be on the way.

At present about one million Australians with the condition need a CPAP device at night.

The discovery could change the landscape of treatment, says Dr Eckert, a former Harvard researcher now at Neuroscience Research Australia.

The Harvard-led study shows anatomy, weight and age are not the only causes of OSA, says his report, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"We've unearthed brand new problem areas," Dr Eckert said.

These involve muscle responsiveness in sleep, waking too easily and a response to carbon dioxide that builds up while asleep.

"We might be able to treat these rather than focus solely on the problem of a collapsing airway, as we have until now.

"That's a pretty exciting