Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths whilst sleeping. When the breathing stops it can be for 10 seconds to perhaps a minute or more and this causes sleep disturbance and also variation in blood oxygen levels.The pause in breathing is called apnoea and where there is an episode of shallow breathing this is called hypopnea.
There are 3 different types of apnoea and there are tests available to determine which of these are the culprits.Central apnoea is where the lack of breathing is caused by the respiratory system temporarily stopping.The central nervous system is not working as it should be and so the messages from the brain to the respiratory centre are disrupted. Obstructive apnoea is where there is an obstruction within the airway this type is often accompanied by snoring.Mixed apnoea is a mixture of the two.
Those who suffer with any type of sleep apnoea often are not aware of this although their partner may complain of them snoring.Sufferers may have had this for a number of years without realising and they perhaps have been feeling very tired during the day.This is chronic sleep deprivation and over time it leads to daytime fatigue, slower reflexes, poor concentration.Over time it can also increase risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, strokeandweight gain.
We all know the benefits of getting a good nights sleep on a regular basis and we all know how we feel if we do not get a good nights sleep.
So, how do you tell the difference between normal snoring and sleep apnoea?
Well, one way is to ask your partner if they have noticed you appearing to stop breathing then starting again with a gasp/snort?A big telltale sign is how you actually feel during the day -are you tired?If your quality of sleep has been disturbed over months then you will not be functioning as well as you might and will eventually feel under the weather.
There are some risk factors which can help your Dr to diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea and they are
- Related to someone who has sleep apnea.
- Over the age of 65.
- Black, Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander.
- A smoker.
- Thick neck.
- Deviated septum.
- Receding chin.
- Enlarged tonsils/adenoids.
Risk factors for central sleep apnoea include
- Aged over 65.
- Heart disease or stroke victim.
- Central nervous system injury.
- Neurological disease.
Lifestyle changes that may help include
- Cutting down on caffeine.
- Do not eat heavy meals before bed.
- Cut down on alcohol consumption.
- Stopping smoking.
- Have regular bed time.
Tips for bedtime to help
- Make sure that your head and upper body is elevated -an adjustable bed is perfect for this as you can get the right angle every time.
- Sleep whilst lying on your side so that your airway cannot close/collapse so easily.
- The tennis ball trick -sleep with a tennis ball into the back your PJ top then if you do roll onto your back you will very quickly roll back to where you were.