Sleep apnoea is the condition where breathing temporary stops during sleep. Apnoea is a medical term which means the absence of normal breathing. The condition occurs because of an involuntary relaxation of the muscles of the pharyngeal walls.
People who suffer from sleep apnoea usually snore, snort, or gasp in their sleep. The condition has harmful effects on the quality of sleep and overall health. Because of the repetitive episodes of apnoea, the person would often feel fatigued and tired throughout the day.
Sleep apnoea is a quite common condition which affects more men than women. It could occur in different age groups but is more noted in people aged 30-60 years old. Most of the cases, people suffering from sleep apnoea do not realise that they have the condition. That is why a good number of sleep apnoea cases are undiagnosed.
The Australian Sleep Association estimated that about 5% of Australians have some form of sleep apnoea. The latest statistics according to Snore Australia shows that 9% of women and 25% of men in Australia have clinically significant degree of sleep apnoea.
The increase in the prevalence of sleep apnoea in Australia is caused by the obesity epidemic. These figures show that the condition is indeed common and warrants aggressive management. If you think that you have sleep apnoea, it is highly advisable to go to your physician for further evaluation.
Causes and how it affects the body
Obesity is the leading cause of sleep apnoea. The throat muscles normally relax when we sleep. But people who are obese or those with a large neck have a narrowed airway. Because of this, they are more prone to have sleep apnoea. There are also other risk factors associated with the development of sleep apnoea which include:
- Smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages before going to bed
- Nasal congestion
- Large tonsils or adenoids especially in children
- Intake of sleeping pills or sedatives
- Unusual structures in the face or neck
Signs and symptoms
The feeling of fatigue, tiredness, and daytime sleepiness are the most common symptoms of sleep apnoea. Other symptoms would include irritability, poor concentration, and mood changes. Snoring, choking, snorting, or gasping could also occur while the patient is sleeping. Having frequent naps and constant lack of energy during the day are also symptoms of sleep apnoea.
A sleep apnoea test known as polysomnogram is usually done to diagnose the presence of sleep apnoea. The test could be done in a sleep centre clinic or at home. Other tests might be requested to determine other underlying factors and the presence of comorbid conditions.
There are different treatment options available for sleep apnoea. The treatment options include:
- CPAP device
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, it is a machine used to maintain airway patency while you sleep. It continuously delivers compressed air through a face mask.
MAD stands for Mandibular Advancement Device, it’s a device used to hold the jaw and tongue forward preventing it to fall back and cause obstruction while you sleep.
- Lifestyle modification
Lifestyle modification is probably the only treatment option which offers long-term relief of the symptoms. It is a cost-effective approach to treat sleep apnoea. Since obesity is the leading cause of the condition, patients are strongly recommended to lose weight. When the patient has lost weight it effectively resolves the symptoms of sleep apnoea.
According to health experts, weight loss of 5 to 10 kilograms is sufficient to dramatically reduce the severity of the condition. However, a healthy weight should be attained in order to totally manage the condition.
The treatment options mentioned above are good enough to manage the symptoms of the condition. Weight loss should be a part of the treatment plan since it is proven to significantly address the condition. If left untreated, sleep apnoea could dramatically impair overall health and quality of life.
There are also preventive measures that can address sleep apnoea. You can prevent the condition by limiting you alcohol intake and by stopping your smoking habits. Maintaining a healthy weight could also effectively prevent a person from having sleep apnoea.
You can contact us for more information regarding the treatment and prevention of sleep apnoea.
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