Health, Lifestyle

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep Apnoea is a medical condition that prevents your body from getting the kind of sleep and rest that is needed for optimum health.  It’s not just having insomnia; many sufferers don’t even know they have it and may even think they sleep well. At the same time, they’ll always feel tired and wonder why.

What is happening during those night hours if you have sleep apnoea? Your breathing is being obstructed so that you actually stop breathing for tiny periods of time while you are asleep. This often happens mostly during that deep sleep cycle and your body is then deprived of the oxygen you need while at the same time having too much carbon dioxide in the blood.

That sounds very bad and it is, but the brain recognizes the fact that there is not enough oxygen in the bloodstream and goes to work to waken you so that you start breathing again. You may not know that this happens because you are not likely to come fully awake. You’ll just come out of that deep sleep cycle and will once again sleep lightly and breathe more regularly – until it happens again.

The trouble is that this can happen hundreds of times per night, so is it any wonder you feel constantly tired?

Symptoms of sleep apnoea are –

  • Snoring
  • Waking with a headache
  • Feeling unrefreshed in the morning
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Falling asleep during the day even when you don’t mean to
  • Falling asleep easily when driving
  • Feeling irritable during the day

As well as severe tiredness, sleep apnoea can cause other medical problems such as –

  • Impaired liver function
  • Heart disease
  • Nerve dysfunction
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic changes
  • Depression
  • Stroke or heart attack

So what actually causes sleep apnoea? It happens when the walls of the upper airway relax and form a complete or partial blockage in the airway.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnoea

It’s wise to have your sleeping problems diagnosed by a health care professional. Attending a Sleep Clinic will ensure that the correct diagnosis is made and how severe the blockage is. This will determine what treatment is necessary. Options are –

  • Lifestyle changes such as quit smoking and avoiding alcohol before bedtime.
  • Wearing a sleep apnoea dental appliance to keep the airways open.
  • Using a sleep positional device to keep you on your side if you have positional sleep apnoea.
  • Using a CPAP machine to help you breathe at night. This includes a mask that has to be fitted tightly over your nose and mouth and will direct a stream of air to the back of the throat, which helps to stop the airways from collapsing
  • Surgery to remove tonsils, soft palate and/or uvula – generally considered to be the last resort.