Sleep Apnoea – What is It and What Can Help Treat It?

Sleep Apnoea – What is It and What Can Help Treat It?

This sleeping disorder is so common even to seemingly-healthy people; know more about its effects and how to treat it.

In 2017, the National Heart Society carried out a series of tests to diagnose sufferers of sleep disorders across England. The result: numbers have doubled since the past decade. In 2007, it was revealed that there were roughly 70,000 sleep disorder sufferers; now, there are about 148,000.

These tests were designed to define sleep apnoea, a condition which Harvard Medical School describes as a blockage in the airway during sleep – which then interrupts the breathing many times in a night. Having sleep apnoea puts one at risk for many of reasons, including a raise in the blood pressure, and heart stroke.

Lack of oxygen in the brain is one of the main causes of this condition. This leads to several indicators, including chronic snoring, grunting and gasping. Some sufferers tend to move while sleeping. According to the study lead by the NHS, about 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from this condition; 2% of those are female, and 4% are male. It was suspected that 80% of those with the disorder are unaware they have it.

In the US, the National Sleep Foundation revealed that a massive number of 18 million has sleep apnoea and occurs in all age groups, even in children.

How dangerous is sleep apnoea?

One study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine divulges the high mortality rate of sleep apnoea sufferers. According to their research, those with this condition have three times the risk of dying due to any cause. Risks are represented of an adjusted hazard ratio of 3.2 after gauging one's age, sex and body mass.

People who are undiagnosed and untreated will have poorer survival rate compared to those without the condition – given the same age, gender and mass, revealed Terry Young, PhD of University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 1988, a research was held by the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, enlisting more than 1,500 participants in between ages 30 and 60. The patients spent one night at a clinical research centre and were assessed by polysomnography. 63 individuals had a range of 30 to 97 pauses per hour – tagging them with severe sleep apnoea. A bigger percentage of 70 had less than 5 apnoea, which puts them in a “mild” range.

18 years later, a follow-up research was held, tracing the national death records upto March 1, 2008 to identify any of the participants who have died and what caused their death. It was revealed that 80 deaths were recorded; 37 were cancer-related, and 25 were due to cardiovascular disease. 19% of participants with severe sleep apnoea had 12 deaths, compared to the 4% who had no sleep apnoea. Most of those sleep-apnoea related deaths were linked to heart diseases.

How do we treat it?

The American College of Physicians recommended lifestyle changes, especially weight loss, for people suffering with this condition. According to studies, people who are overweight tend to have an extra tissue at the back of their throat, which can then block the air flow into the lungs during sleep. Losing weight, according to Dr Lawrence Epstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital, can make both sleep apnoea and other health problems go away.

However, there also more scientific options. The use of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is the first-line treatment for this condition. CPAP can be fitted over the nose and mouth to blow air into the throat, keeping the airways open at night. While this equipment works well, CPAP may take some time getting used to – nobody wants to wear a clunky device while sleeping at night. Thankfully, changes in the technology have resulted to more mask styles and oral appliances which aids in better breathing.

Do you have sleep apnoea?

Thankfully, there are many ways that indicate this condition. If you recognize these signs before, during or after sleep, you might want to check with your doctor to have a proper diagnose.

  • Frequent urination at night. According to Dr Robert Oexman of Sleep to Live Institute, sleep apnoea requires diaphragm effort, putting pressure on the abdomen and bladder, making one sense the need to urinate.
  • Headaches in the morning. Because oxygen hardly reaches the brain during sleep, patients tend to have headaches as they wake up.
  • Daytime sleepiness. Restless nights will wear you out, and not even coffee can help you get back on your feet.
  • Weight gain. Oexman reveals that sleep apnoea also interferes with your metabolism as it impairs your ability to process sugar.
  • Regular gasping and snoring. As tissues get in the way of your airflow, you tend to put more effort to breathe in and breathe out.  

Sleep apnoea may seem trivial, but this condition puts patients at risk when untreated. Be in the know. Overcome this disorder with proper diet and therapy, then get that much-needed rest without any interruptions in your sleep.