The hidden condition disturbing your beauty sleep
We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, but if you’re suffering from sleep apnoea, this could be easier said than done.
A recent YouGov survey has revealed that almost half of the women in the UK are suffering from sleep deprivation.
A lack of sleep can have a significant impact on our day to day lives, leaving us fatigued, lethargic and easily irritated. Despite this, however, the study found that many of us fail to seek medical advice for our sleep problems, instead blaming our exhaustion on the everyday stresses of modern life.
While stress can indeed be a cause of tiredness and broken sleep, persistent fatigue can also be a sign of a serious underlying health problem known as sleep apnoea.
What is sleep apnoea?
The most common type of sleep apnoea is ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea’, or OSA. People with OSA suffer from breathing interruptions during sleep, due to the throat muscles relaxing and blocking the airway. When this occurs, your brain is prompted to pull you out of your deep sleep so that your airway can reopen and normal breathing can resume.
This can happen many times throughout the night (once very couple of minutes in severe cases!), leaving you tired and sleep deprived.
As the above study shows, many people are totally unaware that they suffer from sleep apnoea and have no memory of these night time interruptions. However, there are symptoms you can look out for, including snoring, fatigue, headaches and muscle pain.
Sleep apnoea can affect anyone, but there are certain factors which increase your risk, including smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight, taking sleeping medication, pregnancy and the menopause.
What are the risks?
The cumulative effects of OSA can be serious and debilitating. Extreme and persistent sleep deprivation has been shown to cause memory loss, confusion and depression, and is even thought to be factor in the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. Tiredness also impairs cognitive function and can pose a danger for sufferers who drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery.
Aside from extreme fatigue, OSA also poses other serious health dangers. Amongst other health conditions, a continued shortage of oxygen significantly raises your risk of high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. In some cases, OSA can even prove to be fatal.
How is it treated?
Happily, OSA is treatable, which is why it’s so important to seek advice if you’re not sleeping well or feel constantly tired. Your first port of call should be your GP who can assess your symptoms and refer you to a sleep centre for diagnosis.
If you are suffering from OSA, there are a number of options available to you. For mild cases, making some lifestyle changes such as losing weight, reducing your alcohol intake or changing your sleeping position, could be enough to stop your symptoms. Wearing a specialised mouth guard can also help.
For people with moderate to severe symptoms, there are two main treatment routes. Wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device helps to keep your airway open while you sleep by delivering a constant air supply via a mask. The other treatment option is the Nyxoah neurostimulation device, which uses an electric current to contract the tongue and open the airway.
In some cases, OSA sufferers may require surgical intervention. However, this is rare and generally only used as a last resort.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing. So if something is disturbing your sleep patterns or you feel constantly fatigued, it’s important to get it checked out. Sleep apnoea may be a potentially serious condition but, once diagnosed, it can be managed quite easily, enabling you to catch up on that all-important beauty sleep.
Photo by Michael Symonds – Eigenanfertigung (Aufnahme ist übrigens nicht gestellt.), CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6078536