Sleep apnoea is a well-known but not very well-understood sleep disorder. While one of the common symptoms is snoring, often people just feel this is an annoying thing their spouse does which keeps them awake, rather than a sign of something potentially more sinister. If left undiagnosed and untreated, sleep apnoea can severely impact a person’s health. SleepWise has effective treatment options for sleep apnoea. If you’re concerned for your health after reading this article, then we recommend giving us a call so we can help you further.

What is sleep apnoea?

Briefly, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is where the soft tissue of the throat, and the tongue, collapse against the back of the throat, stopping or restricting the airflow. It most commonly occurs when someone is sleeping on their back. When the brain detects a drop in the oxygen levels of the blood, it jolts a person awake, so the blockage is opened, and they can breathe again. This can occur many times per hour during the night, causing a significantly disrupted sleep pattern. 

Can sleep apnoea be a cause of death?

The short answer to this question is yes, but really, it is more complicated than that. Sleep apnpea can cause a range of health issues, such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is these conditions that can cause death. Since it can be reasoned that sleep apnoea caused these symptoms, which lead to death, then the answer can be yes- you can die from sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea can also cause arrhythmias and heart failure through high blood pressure. 50% of people with heart failure or atrial fibrillation are found to have sleep apnoea and these can also be a cause of death.

How dangerous is sleep apnoea?

If left untreated, the secondary health issues will just grow more severe. There will be increased levels of carbon dioxide levels in the blood, increased incidents of hypoxia, or the lowering of oxygen levels in the blood, and so on. If left untreated, OSA can shorten your lifespan by 12-15 years, depending on the severity. It is more than just interrupted sleep making you tired and grumpy. OSA is a serious medical condition that needs your attention.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea?

What are the signs that you may be suffering from sleep apnoea? Some of these listed can feel like everyday symptoms or something not so serious. But if you consider them in combination, you may like to give us a call, take a sleep apnoea test, or arrange a sleep study, the only way of making a diagnosis.

Symptoms can include some or several of the following:

  • Snoring
  • Waking unrefreshed and sleepiness during the day
  • Episodes of no breathing, followed by gasping, when sleeping
  • Irritability during the day
  • Depression and mood changes
  • Headaches or jaw aches

If your partner is kicking you out of the bed for snoring, there could be something serious going on. You can find detailed explanations of these symptoms on our website.

How is sleep apnoea treated?

There are three main ways you can treat sleep apnoea:

  1. Oral Appliance – These are customised adjustable mouthguards. Along with CPAP machines, they are considered the main treatment for sleep apnoea. They work by gently bringing your jaw a little forward, thereby opening the airway and allowing you to breathe  normally during sleep.
  2. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – this machine consists of a mask you wear over your nose and mouth and an air pump. These machines deliver a constant mild air pressure, so you keep breathing, and your airways don’t collapse while you sleep.
  3. Surgery – this option is more a last resort and should only be considered if you are unable to wear a CPAP machine or you can’t use an oral appliance. The surgery opens up the upper airway to make breathing easier, but it is often not a total cure. You can also consider surgery on the nose if it is blocked in order to open the nasal air passages.

Lifestyle changes can also help you reduce your sleep apnoea. Often a person’s weight is a concern for people with this condition. 

  • Losing weight can help ease pressure on the airway while sleeping 
  • More exercise can also help reduce the symptoms of OSA
  • Changing your sleep position to be on your side is another way to help reduce the symptoms of OSA

When should you seek a medical professional?

The sooner you see a medical professional, like the team at SleepWise, the better for your health and well being. You might not recognise the symptoms of OSA soon enough, thinking that you’re just tired or run down. It is better to see a professional and take a sleep test than leave it and have the issues mentioned above- hypoxia and increased heart disease.

The symptoms listed above, such as depression and irritability, can seem like everyday issues or related to other events, and you could easily pass them off as something other than sleep apnoea. This is why some people delay getting medical advice for this condition.

Get in touch with our team for a conversation. We have locations in the Melbourne CBD and Geelong.

The initial consultation will cost you $95 and is covered by most private health insurance. This will help you determine if you need further investigation to help your health.

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