Understanding Sleep Apnoea
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) affects millions of unsuspecting victims every night.
Often regarded as a condition only afflicting older or obese people, OSA can occur in men, women and children of all sizes and ages, even young, fit people are at risk.
Some of the first signs you’re suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea is your partner complaining about your snoring, and you constantly feeling tired and groggy as if you’ve hardly slept at all.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
When you have obstructive sleep apnoea the walls of your throat come together while you’re sleeping, blocking your airway and causing you to wake up.
Once you’ve woken up, your breathing returns to normal and you fall asleep again, but since this can happen hundreds of times every night and your breathing can stop for between 10 seconds and a minute, you don’t get the restorative sleep you need.
You only wake up for a few seconds each time, just long enough to start breathing normally again. Although you may not remember waking, it’s enough to dramatically affect your sleep cycle.
Although a common cause of sleep apnoea is obesity and being overweight, there are other factors that can contribute, and effective treatment must be tailored to the individual.
Factors that can lead to poor sleep quality include alcohol use and certain medications, nasal congestion or obstruction, throat conditions such as thyroid problems, enlarged tonsils, and the shape of the face and jaw.
If left untreated, your risk for heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythm, stroke and type 2 diabetes will increase.
Sleep apnoea is more common in men over 30 years than in women, with around one in four men suffering to some degree.
- A constant feeling of tiredness no matter how early you go to bed
- Daytime sleepiness and mental fog with poor concentration
- Irritability and changes in mood
- Frequently waking up gasping or choking
- Increased night-time toilet visits
Sleep apnoea varies in its severity from mild, where your sleep is interrupted 5-15 times an hour, to severe, with more than 30 interruptions per hour.
Treatment is dependent on the cause and, in the case of obesity-related sleep apnoea, lifestyle changes should be implemented immediately.
Avoid alcohol at night, as it can cause the airways to relax too much when you fall asleep.
One of the most effective treatments is a mask worn at night that prevents the throat from collapsing, and, for mild cases of sleep apnoea, a mouthguard can work.
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