WHAT IS SLEEP APNOEA?
Those who suffer from this serious sleep disorder stop breathing for a few seconds whilst they are sleeping. It’s estimated that a quarter of the population has the condition. It’s more common in older men. Obstructive sleep apnoea is caused when the airways in the throat relax too much during sleep, and prevent the sleeper from breathing properly for at least 10 seconds at a time. The brain then sends signals to rouse them into lighter sleep – although the sleeper may not be aware that it’s happening. The blockage can happen several times a night. Unless a partner alerts them, many sufferers don’t know what’s causing their disrupted sleep. Diagnosis is usually done by an investigation into the patient’s sleep patterns by a clinic. Sleep apnoea is considered serious because the effects over time can contribute to a host of illnesses. Those include high blood pressure, risk of a stroke or heart attack, irregular heartbeat and developing type 2 diabetes. However, being overweight is also a factor in having sleep apnoea, so this may also be a result of that underlying cause. The short-term effect of sleep apnoea is tiredness – to the point where you might pose a danger to others if you drive, or operate machinery for a living. It can also affect relationships, as sufferers often snort, snore or breath loudly, or have night sweats, disrupting their partners’ sleep. The condition can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and reducing alcohol and smoking. For severe cases, the use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine can be used to keep airways open.