Sleep Apnoea: How dangerous is it?

Sleep apnoea is a deadly sleep disorder that gets worse as you grow older. Not only does sleep apnoea cause sleep deprivation, but worse still, it can pose danger to your life. Do any of the following apply to you?

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You’re always sleepy during the daytime. You often feel depressed. You wake up many times at night catching your breath. Your sleep is restless. You wake up with a sore or dry throat. Your loud snoring wakes up the household. You’ve become forgetful, your attention wanders, and you experience wide mood swings.

If you plead guilty to all or most of these, then you probably have the disorder obstructive sleep apnoea – called OSA.

There are many possible causes of these symptoms individually, but when several of them occur together, it’s possible you are experiencing “sleep apnoea.” Apnea is a Greek word meaning “without” (a-) and “spirit” (pnea) and this is exactly what’s happening while you sleep. You stop breathing anywhere from 10 seconds to minutes, possibly hundreds of times each night, or your breathing becomes abnormally shallow over a period of time.

Anyone can have OSA and according to recent statistics, millions of us who suffer from sleep apnoea are not even aware of it. The majority of those suffering are overweight and heavy snorers. Estimates say that there appear to be about 12 million North Americans and around 2 million British sufferers. It’s believed, as well, that 90 per cent of cases go totally undiagnosed either because they’re not reported, or because people don’t know they have it, so the actual number could be as many as 120 million in North America, and almost 20 million in Britain; well over one third of us and increasing.

Sleep apnoea is a serious disorder and needs remedy. Our cells need a constant supply of oxygen to stay alive. Our breathing apparatus provides that oxygen while removing carbon dioxide that can be lethal if it builds up.

In short, the problem with apnoea is that your body is being undersupplied with oxygen and oversupplied with carbon dioxide. This leaves one open to the possibility of serious health problems, including diabetes, liver function impairment, cardiovascular problems and various other illnesses.

Most cases of OSA occur because the upper part of your airway becomes obstructed. As you fall asleep, the muscle tone of the whole body tends to relax. Because the airway, the upper part of the pharynx, is composed of muscular walls, these can collapse, and so it’s not surprising that breathing can be obstructed during sleep.

Chronic cases of OSA are treated by a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. It’s a device that maintains steady air pressure, a hose and a mask. It may take a while to get used to this machine, but they are vital for reducing the symptoms of sleep apnoea for those in severe distress.

CPAP however has some drawbacks, and for those who can’t tolerate it there are alternatives, and oral appliances are recommended as it is seen as better to have some treatment rather than none.

Certain oral appliances are now medically recommended to treat the many mild to moderate sufferers who form the majority. The most widely used one is the MAD (mandibular advancement device); it’s very much like a sports mouth guard. It works by forcing the lower jaw slightly forward and down, which keeps open the airway.

Bespoke versions such as SleepPro Custom are available to fit your jaw exactly and comfortably and will not only stop OSA from happening, but when used repair much of the previous damage. Recent tests conducted by Papworth Hospital, who are England’s leading specialist Hospital in these matters, has recommended the SleepPro Custom be used as the leading device by mild and moderate sufferers.

Whatever you do when you become aware of the symptoms of sleep apnoea, DO SOMETHING. As mentioned earlier, this is a serious breathing disorder and can lead to some very unpleasant health consequences.

 

John Redfern

 


Falling asleep at the wheel is a worldwide problem

According to an article in last week’s Irish Times, sleep apnoea sufferers are more likely to fall asleep when they are driving. We’re always advised to take a break if we feel drowsy but a leading sleep disorders expert told a road safety conference that short rests should not be seen as a cure.

Bored man at the wheel of his car sleeping

 

A recent survey in Ireland showed that people who suffer from sleep apnoea, a condition in which breathing is disrupted during sleep, are seven times more likely to fall asleep while driving. With 146 people killed on the country’s roads so far this year – just one below the death toll in the same period last year – Irish motorists are being cautioned about the impact the condition and tiredness can have on the risk of collisions. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) revealed statistics on how lack of sleep can lead to deaths on the roads, with fatigue believed to be a factor in one- fifth of all collisions.

Prof Walter McNicholas, who is director of the pulmonary and sleep disorders unit at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said short rests should not be seen as a cure for tiredness, but as a temporary relief.

“Untreated sleep apnoea is associated with high levels of sleepiness, which makes driving incredibly dangerous,” he said. “When treated effectively, sleep apnoea is incredibly manageable, so awareness of the signs and early diagnosis is key.”

Prof McNicholas said evidence from research into the cause of road crashes shows, on average, a fifth to a quarter of all motorway crashes are due to excessive sleepiness. The RSA said a survey of driver attitudes and behaviour carried out last year showed that as many as one in 10 Irish motorists admitted they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point.

In the same week, similar safety initiatives were launched in other countries.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) launched a new initiative to raise awareness of important health issues in the trucking industry, starting with obstructive sleep apnoea, and released the first in a series of health fact sheets for its members.

Developed in partnership with the Sleep Health Foundation, the first sheet focuses on sleep apnoea, a condition that affects as many as 40 per cent of Australia’s long distance truck drivers. The sheet outlines the symptoms, including fatigue and heavy snoring, and the steps drivers can take to diagnose and treat the condition.

Long distance drivers in the USA, or ‘Truckers’ as they are termed, have had to come to terms with strict new medical guidelines recently. If they are diagnosed with OSA, and the condition is properly treated with a suitable and approved oral appliance, then they may continue to drive. The present guidance suggests that compliance for treated OSA is that the driver be treated for at least four hours a night and for at least 70% of the time (seven out of 10 nights). Without this, the trucker will lose his licence.

Further to similar statements by Government Motoring Departments in other countries, the DVLA in Britain has made a statement that a greater awareness of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) could save lives and have underlined the fact that OSA is thought to cause as many as one-fifth of accidents on Britain’s motorways.

Approved oral appliances for mild to moderate OSA include British-made SleepPro Custom. The SleepPro Custom was recommended as the best oral appliance for sleep apnoea after stringent testing of a selection of oral appliances that were conducted in 2014 at Papworth Hospital, the leading UK Hospital and an authority for sleep disorders of this kind,

John Redfern


Snoring is in your genes – so If you snore – your children will

There’s bad news for any children whose parents constantly keep them awake at night snoring – they are very likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps and be noisy sleepers too.

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Children whose parents suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea – of which snoring is a major symptom – have a much higher chance of having the condition than children whose parents do not, according to new research from New Zealand which has found a genetic link. The co-researcher of the study Dr Angela Campbell said the consequences could be serious, so it was important problems were picked up early.

Obstructive sleep apnoea, often referred to as OSA, is a major sleep breathing disorder that occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat close off the airway during sleep. This can happen for various reasons but the main one is being overweight.

However, as well as keeping the family awake all night, sleep apnoea can affect a child’s learning at school by hindering their ability to retain information, making them more sleepy during the day and more prone to developing cardiovascular issues such as hypertension later in life.

The study involved asking children whose parents had obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and others whose parents were low risk, various questions about symptoms that related to snoring and sleep apnoea.

It found a significantly larger number of the children whose parents had sleep apnoea appeared to exhibit the related symptoms such as snoring, restlessness at night, breathing through the mouth, sweating in the night and hyperactivity during the day. The children whose parents had sleep apnoea were more likely to snore loudly and to have crowded or small airways.

Current estimates in New Zealand said about 20 per cent of adults had sleep apnoea. It was twice as common in men. Between 5 and 10 per cent of adults had severe sleep apnoea. Most were overweight.

Factors that contributed to sleep apnoea included facial structure, which could be genetic, and being overweight.

NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute clinical director Dr Andrew Veale said it was not surprising there was a link between parents who had sleep apnoea and their children because certain bone structures and tongue sizes made it more likely. He said it was effectively treated in children by removing their tonsils.

Traditional treatment for adults meant the use of a system called CPAP, (continuous patient airway pressure) which is simply a pump by the bedside that forces a constant flow of air via a facemask throughout the night. This system was unpopular method for many reasons including dry mouth, noise, and even claustrophobia.

This is now only recommended for absolutely chronic sufferers.

The current approved method that is recommended for mild to moderate sufferers is a specially fitted mouthpiece called a splint. These are made bespoke for the patient’s mouth and done by using a mould that you bite into when warmed in water. It’s easy to wear and works simply to solve this major health risk. The splint moves the bottom jaw forward slightly, opening the throat so that air flows constantly and there are no more interruptions to breathing – and as a result – no snoring either.

Not only will it prevent sleep apnoea, but also there are many indications that it any previous harm is repaired.

Medical recommendations include weight loss and using a splint to stop snoring for all mild to moderate OSA sufferers.

By John Redfern


Fat Tongues now blamed for snoring

If you are regularly in trouble with your partner or family for noisy snoring then you may now have a new excuse. According to this week’s press, if you can’t stop snoring then it may be because your tongue is just too fat.

Female doctor checking out her patient

New research says doctors should look at tongue size when screening for OSA

They were quoting a recent study that had monitored a number of people who were either overweight or obese. A main effect of this was to make them have tongues that are fatter than average, and as a result this caused the throat to be blocked, or closed during the night when they were asleep. The increased tongue fat made it much more difficult for the throat muscles normally used to position the tongue away from the airway.

If this happens to you, the repetitive blocking of the throat interrupts the oxygen supply, causes loud snoring and makes you gasp for air. These events can happen as many as 60-80 times an hour in chronic cases.

It’s already known that being overweight or obese increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which leads to heavy repetitive snoring because the airway becomes blocked, but until now, it was thought that a larger neck was mainly to blame.

However, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States say that piling on the pounds can also cause a fat tongue – which may well be the culprit. The researchers found that obese people with OSA had a much higher percentage of tongue fat – especially at the base of their tongues – which made their tongues larger overall.

Dr Timothy Morgenthaler, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said doctors should look at tongue size when screening for OSA.

He said: ‘Tongue size is one of the physical features that should always be evaluated by a physician when screening obese patients to determine their risk for obstructive sleep apnoea. The scientist added the study might provide an explanation for the link between obesity and sleep apnoea and said that screening to identify fat tongues may help diagnose the condition.

In severe cases of OSA, the brain jolts the body awake, causing the airway to reopen. The person may wake up repeatedly but without knowing it, increasing their heart rate and blood pressure and preventing deep sleep. Long term, sleep apnoea is already linked with a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression.

Dr Morgenthaler added ‘Effective identification and treatment of sleep apnoea is essential to optimally manage other conditions associated with this chronic disease, including high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression.’ All these conditions are regularly associated with OSA.

The study has just been published in the specialist journal Sleep.

Figures for the UK estimate that around 5% of middle-aged men, and 3% of middle-aged women suffer from OSA, with the equivalent figures in the North America being significantly higher, but the majority of people ignore their snoring and other symptoms and it goes dangerously untreated.

Generally sleep apnoea goes undiagnosed for a long time. It can’t be detected during a routine Doctor’s appointment, and there’s no blood test to diagnose it. In fact most sufferers don’t even know they have it because it occurs during sleep: usually the person who does know you have it is your partner, or family member.

Most cases can now be treated by use of a simple mouthpiece worn at night. These are called MAD’s (Mandibular Advancement Devices). These devices attempt to bring the lower jaw forward, thus opening up the airway in the back of the throat. They are worn only during sleep.

Oral appliances such as the SleepPro Custom have been demonstrated to be highly effective – especially in patients with mild to moderate sleep apnoea (between 5 and 30 events per hour) and it is highly recommended.

By John Redfern


Men and women finally agree about snoring – it’s worse than anything

A new survey published this week has revealed that snoring, leaving the toilet seat up, and hogging the duvet are among the top ten worst habits of couples living together in today’s society.

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One of Britain’s largest property companies has recently published the findings of some special research that they have conducted amongst couples, both married and co-habiting, in order to discover each other’s opinions on their partner’s worst habits.

For both men and women, the number one annoyance is Snoring.

This is something that we might expect to hear from a woman as snoring has long been regarded as a serious male problem, leading to sleeping apart, and also being the third most common reason for divorce.

It’s new however to hear this criticism of women in respect of them snoring. Changes in lifestyle have caused this and many women now suffer from snoring, and at a much younger age. They are eating differently, drinking more, exercising less and as a result they are generally carrying more weight than they used to which is one of the primary causes of snoring. In addition, they actually are more aware and concerned, and readily own up much more. Many more women now seek Stop Snoring solutions as a result.

Here’s what they thought about how they irritated each other, other than a lucky third who didn’t have a single complaint – as yet:

Women’s top 10 complaints about living with their partner:

  1. Snoring
  2. Leaving clothes on the floor
  3. Leaving the toilet seat up
  4. Not doing the washing up
  5. Hogging the remote
  6. Leaving lights on
  7. Leaving wet towels on the floor
  8. How rubbish their partner is at cooking
  9. Taking too long to get ready in the bathroom
  10. Playing computer games

Men’s top 10 complaints about living with their partner:

  1. Snoring
  2. Taking too long to get ready in the bathroom
  3. Leaving lights on
  4. Leaving clothes on the floor
  5. Leaving hair in the shower drain
  6. Always on social media
  7. Not doing the washing up
  8. Hogging the duvet
  9. Never taking the bins out
  10. How rubbish their partner is at cooking.

The great news is that snoring can be easily stopped rather than letting it deteriorate and even cause a divorce, or worse still result in some serious life-threatening health problems such as Diabetes, Cardiovascular related illnesses, and many others that are related to it.

All you need to do is wear a simple mouthpiece at night when you sleep – and the snoring will stop. Peace will reign in the household again. You’ll sleep better and feel better too. Harmony prevails.

SleepPro make a range of highly rated oral appliances that are medically approved, and have a 98% success rate, including one especially for women.

By John Redfern