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What is Sleep Apnoea and What Can You Do About It?

1 CommentFriday, 8 September 2017

Late last year, beloved Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher passed away, which was sad and shocking news for the world. It has recently come to light that the actress and author passed away as a result of sleep apnoea and other factors, which begs the question... What exactly is sleep apnoea and what can we do about preventing it? Here at Health and Care, we want to make sure that you have all the facts you need to understand what sleep apnoea is and how you can go about treating it.

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition where a person's breathing stops during sleep. This is due to the walls of the throat relaxing and narrowing during sleep, thus interrupting normal breathing for seconds - and in some cases, several minutes - at a time. OSA is officially recognised in a person if their breathing stops for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Since breathing is vital in circulating oxygen around our body and brain, this lack of oxygen from frequent pauses will take your brain out of deep sleep, or even wake it up altogether so your body can restore normal breathing. This irregular breathing pattern often leads to frequently interrupted sleep, which can have a large impact on quality of life in the long run.

Causes of Sleep Apnoea

It's completely normal for the soft tissue and muscles in the throat to relax to some degree while sleeping, as for most this doesn't cause any breathing problems. There are, however, a number of factors that can contribute to developing OSA:

  • Weight: those with excessive body fat, especially around the neck, can experience difficulty breathing in the night
  • Gender: though there are no definitive answers as to why, OSA is more common in men than in women
  • Age: OSA can occur at any stage of life, but is particularly prevalent in those over 40 years old
  • Medication: taking medicines with a sedative effect, such as tranquillisers or sleeping pill, can often over-relax the throat
  • Alcohol: drinking alcohol, particularly before going to sleep, is known to make snoring and sleep apnoea worse
  • Smoking: regular smokers are more likely to have OSA 

How Can I Tell If I Have Sleep Apnoea?

As OSA is a condition that affects you in your sleep, you may not even know you have it. Although, if you sleep with a partner, or live in a house with particularly thin walls, you may have others notice your loud snoring. Snoring is not uncommon, with as many as one in four people in the UK snoring regularly. However, if family and friends notice that your snoring is unusually loud, or sounds particularly laboured, this is often a tell-tale sign of OSA.

Some people who have OSA may also experience night sweats and find themselves frequently having to get up in the night to go to the toilet. If you also feel like you're waking up many times in the night, or feel exceptionally tired even after a full eight hours' rest, it is wise to visit your GP.

Is Sleep Apnoea Treatable?

There are a variety of different treatment options to reduce symptoms of OSA. However, it is important to know that these are not quick-fix solutions and will often need lifelong commitment.

Lifestyle changes

It may feel like a cliché, but keeping a healthy lifestyle where you get plenty of exercise and eat lots of fibre, protein, fruits and vegetables will do wonders with your general health. To further prevent worsening symptoms of OSA, it is wise to not smoke, to reduce alcohol consumption, and to avoid taking sedative medications.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

This is a small pump that delivers a continuous supply of compresses air through a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Although it is not the trendiest of headwear and can feel a bit odd or uncomfortable at first, many suffers of OSA see vast improvement when using CPAP devices.

Surgery

In more extreme cases, surgery might be recommended for you; however, this is only in the most extreme circumstances. There is a range of surgical procedures that can help beat OSA, a common one being a tracheostomy, where a tube is inserted in the neck to allow you to breath freely at all times.

Sleep Apnoea Solutions at Health and Care

Here at Health and Care, we have a range of products that will help you keep sleep apnoea away and, in turn, improve your health. If you're only suffering from light, slightly bothersome snoring, Rhynil Stop Snoring Spray may be your answer to keep your breathing passages open, with it even been approved by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association. Otherwise, we have a range of CPAP products, from masks to memory foam pillows, to ensure OSA is kept at bay.

Have you or any of your loved ones ever suffered from sleep apnoea? Let us know in the comments, or reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook.


Pauline Gill
Saturday, 9 September 2017  |  15:11

I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I have got used to the CPAP now but my problem is an itchy nose. I have eczema, you can't alway's see it but it drives me mad!! So I still wake, and sometimes have to abandon the CPAP altogether. I'm not sure what doc will suggest when I return?

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