23rd January 2020
It is believed sleep is the foundation to a healthy lifestyle, but even the fittest amongst us can struggle with continued periods of poor sleep. Sleep is something we all have in common, but it would be fair to say we all have very different experiences – some will sleep comfortably through the night, while others won’t get any sleep at all. Why can’t we all have a good night’s sleep?
If there was an instruction manual that would guarantee a good night’s sleep, we would all read it, right? The problem is sleep is more complicated than that; everyone has very different needs and environments that affect the way you sleep. In many cases making positive changes to your overall lifestyle can have a positive impact on your sleep, while for others, it’s more complicated than that.
Having a sleep disorder can make sleeping very problematic, potentially negatively impacting your overall wellbeing. Sleep apnoea is estimated to impact 13% of adult men and 6% of adult women, a staggering 3.9 million people in the UK alone. What is this disorder and how does it affect people?
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition that causes frequent pauses in your breathing while you sleep. According to the NHS there are two types of breathing interruption characteristic of OSA:
Suffers of OSA can experience episodes of both apnoea and hypopnoea, therefore doctors sometimes refer to this as obstructive sleep apnoea-hypopnoea syndrome, or OSAHS. People with OSA can experience repeated episodes throughout the night, with more severe cases occurring every one or two minutes.
The sensation of OSA can feel like choking, gasping or feeling out of breath, due to the upper airways in your mouth, nose and throat narrowing or completely collapsing, stopping you from breathing for a short period of time. In many cases you will quickly fall asleep again, meaning you may not remember in the morning.
It is most likely a partner, friend or family member will notice the first symptoms of OSA while you sleep. Some of the common signs of OSA are as follows:
You should always seek medical advice from your GP if you suspect you may have OSA. A GP can check for other possible reasons for your symptoms and if required arrange for an assessment at a local sleep clinic.
The good news is OSA is a treatable condition, with a number of varying treatments available to help reduce the symptoms. Some of the most common treatments are as follows:
OSA can have a significant impact on your life if untreated; this is why it is important to seek medical advice. It can cause problems in all aspects of your life such as poor productivity at work and increased strain on relationships with loved ones.
OSA can also increase your risk of:
OSA can affect your ability to drive; therefore it is a legal obligation to inform the DVLA if you have a medical condition that could impact your ability to drive. You may be advised to stop driving once you are diagnosed with OSA until your symptoms are controlled.
Someone who is deprived of sleep because of OSA may be up to 12 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
For most people the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse to some degree while sleeping, this is normal. However suffers of OSA can have a narrowed airway as a result of a number of factors, such as:
As they say prevention is always better than the cure and making positive lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk of developing OSA. If you are currently experiencing difficulties with your sleep it is always advised to seek professional medical advice.