What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a disorder that involves the temporary stopping of breathing during sleep. It usually affects men aged between 40 and 70 years old. It also commonly occurs in elderly individuals and those suffering from obesity. In general, there are three categories of the disorder:
- Obstructive apnoea: This involves real airway obstruction. It occurs when your throat muscles intermittingly relax and block your airway during sleep.
- Central apnoea: Occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
- Mixed apnoea: This last type is simply a mix of the two previous types of apnoea.
Symptoms and effects of sleep apnoea
Usually, the most common symptom of sleep apnoea is snoring. People who suffer from sleep apnoea can also experience prolonged breathing pauses, groans, and puffs.
The causes can vary, but aggravating factors include the use of sedatives, nasal obstruction or the supine position during sleep (sleeping on your front).
Effects include difficulty falling asleep at night, excessive tiredness during the day, frequent headaches and concentration problems.
Medical treatment and advice
Sleep apnoea must occur at least five times per hour and must last at least ten seconds for treatment to be considered. In this case, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible. Usually, polysomnography is prescribed, where your sleep is monitored and a sleep expert will give you their diagnosis.
However, there are a number of lifestyle changes one could undertake to reduce the risk and/or severity of sleep apnoea:
- In the case of overweight people, it is advisable to lose weight
- Avoid prolonged stops in the supine position, if possible.
- Stop smoking
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives before going to bed
Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious disorder that can have some adverse effects on your health. It is important to seek medical attention from your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.