Drowsy Driving: Sleepiness behind the wheel can be deadly

Life can get busy, full of appointments and obligations that keep us on the go and can even push us to the limit in order to get it all done. But, when we push ourselves to the point of getting behind the wheel tired, we put others and ourselves in danger. Drowsy driving can be extremely dangerous, and studies have shown 16.5 per cent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver.

As we approach the holiday travel season, many people will be hitting the roads to visit family and friends. Here are a few things for you to consider that can help you stay safe and alert on the road.

Worst times for sleep-related crashes

Drivers are more susceptible to sleep-related crashes at night or in the afternoon. At night, especially between midnight and 6 a.m., is particularly risky because it is when we are generally sleeping. Many drowsy driving crashes also occur during the “afternoon lull” between 1 and 5 p.m.

Younger drivers are more likely to drive when they are drowsy

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Signs you are too tired to safely drive

  • Trouble remembering the last miles driven
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused
  • Difficulty keeping your head up
  • Yawning frequently or repeatedly rubbing your eyes
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating or hitting rumble strips
  • Missing traffic signs or driving past your exit
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Daydreaming or having disconnected thoughts

Results from a recent Traffic Safety study found younger drivers are more likely than older drivers to drive while drowsy. Drivers between the ages of 16-24 are 78 per cent more likely to have been drowsy at the time of a crash than drivers between the ages of 40-59.

Young people tend to think they need less sleep and can find themselves sleep deprived. Teenaged bodies are still growing, requiring approximately nine hours of sleep a night to be fully rested.

Here are seven tips to help you avoid drowsy driving crashes:

  1. Get Your ZZZs. Get enough sleep, at least seven hours, the night before a trip. Organize tasks related to your trip so you can complete them in the days before your departure. This will allow you to get a good night’s rest instead of staying up late to finish the preparations.
  2. Travel at times when you are normally awake. Driving at times you are normally awake will allow you to be the most alert. Also, keep meals light when driving to minimize the effects of the “afternoon lull.”
  3. Caffeine has its limits. While caffeine may help you feel more awake, it takes about 30 minutes to take effect and only lasts a few hours. It is not a substitute for getting enough sleep, but it can be part of your strategy for staying alert.
  4. Use the buddy system. An alert passenger can watch you for signs of fatigue. They can also help keep things interesting by playing music or engaging in conversation.
  5. Schedule stops. Plan to stop every two hours or 100 miles to give you a break from the road. Use the stop to get out of the vehicle, stretch and walk around so your body can refresh itself.
  6. Take a power nap. Pull off the road and pick a safe place to park, such as a rest area or parking lot. Rest for 20 minutes, and then get up and walk around before continuing your trip.
  7. Above all, never drive while sleepy. If you become sleepy while driving, pull over and get some sleep. Remember, if you nod off for four seconds while traveling 65 miles per hour, you will travel more than the length of a football field without having control of your vehicle.

Sleepiness and fatigue can slow your reaction time, decrease awareness, and impair your judgment just like drugs or alcohol. Use the tips above to help you stay alert behind the wheel, so you and your family can have a safe holiday season on the roads.

SleepPro wishes you a very safe Christmas and New Year


Treating Sleep Apnoea May Lower Problem Blood Pressure by 10%

Doctor taking blood pressure to patient

People with sleep apnoea and hard-to-control high blood pressure may see their blood pressure drop if they start to treat the sleep disorder, according to new research that has been carried out in Europe.

The standard treatment for sleep apnoea, a condition characterized by disrupted breathing during sleep, is either to wear an all night facemask with oxygen supply, called CPAP, or an approved mouthpiece, sometimes called a splint.

This dangerous sleep disorder has been linked to high blood pressure.

Patients included in this study were taking three or more drugs to lower their blood pressure, in addition to having sleep apnoea. Participants who then underwent treatment for 3 months reduced their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) and improved their overall night-time blood pressure, the researchers found.

 

“The prevalence of sleep apnoea in patients with resistant high blood pressure is very high,” said the lead researcher. “Treatment for this increases the probability of recovering the normal nocturnal blood pressure pattern,” he said.

The European report in question has been published in the December Journal of the American Medical Association.

The CPAP system consists of a pumping unit that pushes air through a tube connected to a mask that fits over the patient’s mouth and nose. The air forced through by the device keeps the airway from closing, and thus allows continuous sleep. The mouthpiece however is much easier to use and is similar to a sports gum-shield – easy and comfortable to wear – and moves the jaw forward slightly during sleep opening the airway in doing so.

Sleep apnoea is a common disorder. The pauses in breathing that patients experience can last from a few seconds to minutes and they can occur 30 times or more an hour. As a result, sleep quality is poor, making sleep apnoea a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

The researchers state that short term, the findings are encouraging, and now it needs to test for the long-term benefits to see if it is sustained.

“Close to three out of four patients with resistant high blood pressure have been found to have obstructive sleep apnoea, and this sleep apnoea may contribute to the difficulty to control the blood pressure in these patients. Whether these improvements in blood pressure can be sustained in the long term and will translate to improved health outcomes will require additional studies,” he said.

The researchers found that those receiving treatment lowered their 24-hour average blood pressure 3.1 mm Hg more than those not receiving treatment and similar results were achieved for the average diastolic blood pressure.

The difference in systolic pressure wasn’t statistically significant between the two treatment groups, the researchers noted.

The systolic pressure, the top number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure, the bottom number, measures the pressure in the arteries between beats.

John Redfern

JR/END/491/15.12.2013


Heavy snorers are twice as likely to suffer fatal strokes

New research from the Institute of Cardiology based on 25,000 people states emphatically that snorers are 80 percent more likely to suffer some form of heart disease, and are twice as likely to suffer a fatal stroke due to a blood clot than those who sleep peacefully.

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These alarming findings, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, suggest thedangers of heavy snoring are greater than previously thought.

Around three million people suffer with the snoring condition sleep apnoea, with at least one in four men and one in ten women affected, although this probably understates the problem, as most cases go undiagnosed.

As sleep begins, the muscles in the airways relax. While this does not pose a problem for most people, in sleep apnoea it leads to breathing being shut off for at least ten seconds. Air vibrates against the soft tissue that stands in its way, causing the characteristic ‘rasping’ sound that snorers make. Once the brain realises that breathing has stopped, it sends out a signal for the airway muscles to contract again. This opens the airway and the sufferer normally wakes with a jolt.

In mild sleep apnoea, this can happen once every ten minutes. But in more severe cases, it means sleep can be disturbed every couple of minutes. Treatment can involve sleeping with a mask that pumps air into the throat, but this is often found difficult by sufferers and rejected in favour of the popular and effective alternative, wearing a mouthpiece or splint, which keeps the air passage open when asleep. Similar to a gum shield that is worn in games like rugby, this method is now medically recommended, and better products are NHS approved

But, as previously said, tens of thousands of sufferers are thought to go untreated, and this latest study suggests that the dangers to the heart and brain are greater than doctors thought. Scientists came up with their findings after pooling data from 12 earlier studies that had been done.

The results showed that strokes were twice as likely in heavy snorers, but mild snorers faced little or no increased risk.

Scientists think that the problem stems from the blood flow to the heart and brain being affected by constant breathing interruptions, but it may also be due to the fact that heart rate and blood pressure are repeatedly jolted out of their naturally lower state during deep sleep.

Strokes hit 150,000 people every year, with 30,000 being fatal. Only cancer and heart disease kill more people.

The researchers said: ‘Patients with sleep apnoea who snore heavily will be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and death.’

So if you think you may have the condition, have a chat to your doctor and take steps to stop snoring immediately with an approved product that has a high proven success rate.

For many people, it is linked to other risk factors for the heart, such as obesity, so it’s likely your doctor will help you think about lifestyle changes to improve the condition, such as making sure you take regular exercise and examine what you regularly eat or drink.

By John Redfern

JR/END/564/08.12.13


Being overweight and snoring may soon seriously affect your livelihood

It has long been accepted that carrying excess weight can cause snoring, and that as we get older there is a greater likelihood of this happening. The soft tissue of the throat softens as we age and has a tendency to restrict the airflow as a result. As a consequence when we force air through the narrowed throat, the resultant vibration is the sound of snoring and the worse the constriction, the louder the problem.

This deprivation of oxygen also causes poor sleep and it results in next day drowsiness or fatigue, dependent on the severity of the problem. At its worst, OSA is the result (obstructive sleep apnoea), and this can damage health severely.

The DVLA, AA and other motoring organisations in the UK agree that a significant number of motorway accidents happen as a result of drowsiness caused by poor sleep hygiene, and the figure may be as high as 12% of all accidents. In the USA this percentage is even higher – almost 17% being attributed to this problem as obesity is a major problem in the country.

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Strong attention has been paid for some years on alcohol consumption for both drivers and airline pilots, but that has now broadened to include sleep hygiene. As ever, the USA leads the way but this does of course include all pilots who fly there from other countries, not just US pilots.

In a month where here in the UK, we have already seen an Air Pakistan pilot jailed for 9 months for being three times over the accepted limit, this has been followed by the following steps being taken:

1. The Federal Aviation Authority is to check overweight pilots for restful sleep. Overweight airline pilots and air-traffic controllers are going to start getting a closer medical evaluation from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The change means that specialist aviation medical examiners will calculate each pilot’s Body Mass Index, which calculates weight divided by height, when they are examined every six months. Anyone with a BMI of at least 40 or who has at least a 17-inch neck would then have to be evaluated by a sleep specialist.

Pilots can then be disqualified if they have an untreated sleep problem called obstructive sleep apnoea, which can lead to daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure and other major health issues. The new test will require that overweight pilots be treated for obstructive sleep apnoea before receiving their certificates.

After all overweight pilots are treated, tests for obstructive sleep apnoea will be extended for all pilots because it has been assessed that 30% of people with a BMI that is less than 30, also suffer from the problem.

The policy change will be extended to air traffic controllers too; recent news has covered several incidents where controllers have fallen asleep on duty.

2. The US Senate passes sleep apnoea bill for truck drivers

In the same month the US Senate has recently passed a bill that that would compel the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to create new regulations addressing dangerous sleep disorders that have been found to be common among many truck drivers — including sleep apnoea.

  • Overweight truck drivers account for 18 per cent of fatal truck accidents
  • 86% of the 3.2 million truck drivers in the U.S. are overweight or obese
  • 30% of American truck drivers are believed to have sleep apnoea

The overall result is that aggressive screening will now take place throughout the Transport Industry and we must ask ourselves the question how long it will be before it happens here – and perhaps it’s even a matter of the sooner the better.

JR/END/614/01.12.2013


New Guidelines for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

If you already suffer from sleep apnoea, or think that you or your partner may have this dangerous problem, and it remains undiagnosed for whatever reason, then the new rules that have been issued in the United States will have some real meaning for you.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has published new clinical practice guidelines regarding the management and treatment of OSA in adults. It deals with the known detrimental effects of the problem, and discusses the limitations of the various available treatments. These findings endorse those of the AASM – the American Academy of Sleep Medicine but take recommendations further.

As ever, the USA is ahead of the UK in dealing with this huge problem, partly because it is so much more widespread in the community there. Much of this can be linked to obesity, a major problem in the USA, and which is rapidly becoming so here due to changes in our diet, lower exercise levels in youth, and sedentary occupations now being the largest group by far versus manual workers. Alcohol also often plays a significant role in the equation – mostly due to the high calorific intake and the effect that alcohol can have on sleep hygiene.

What is OSA?

OSA disrupts breathing during sleep, and this is usually as a result of the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relaxing and collapsing to block the airway. It can last for about 10 seconds or even more. It affects people of all ages, but particularly those of us in middle age, and particularly the elderly.

However, we believe that around 80% of cases remain undiagnosed. OSA is easy to treat but when left undiagnosed and untreated, is linked with a range of serious health concerns that include heart disease and stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure, called hypertension. Fatigue becomes a huge problem too.

Current approved treatments for OSA and sleep disordered breathing

OSA is a chronic medical disorder that requires immediate action, but also requires long term, and often lifelong. therapy. Obviously a healthier lifestyle will come high on the list from any GP but this will not stop the problem of your snoring immediately, and sometimes does not succeed at all.

As well as recommending weight loss in overweight and obese patients, it recommends and approves the following treatments as it is recognised that weight-loss intervention alone will not achieve the desired objectives.

Medical Treatments and Clinical Recommendations for OSA

CPAP Mask wearer

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is recommended for more serious sufferers but it is readily identified that many patients reject this treatment for various reasons, particularly having to wear a mask for such long periods of time, claustrophobia, having a dry mouth, or the associated discomfort of the mask amongst others.
  • It is still however strongly recommended for chronic sufferers if acceptable.

Sweet dreams

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD’s or Splints) are fully recommended as a primary treatment route and a strong option in many cases versus CPAP. They are more readily accepted than masks and have many distinct advantages over them including, ease of wear, instant results, high rates of effectiveness and also being inexpensive by comparison – even bespoke mouthpieces or the now available self-fit versions which are highly adjustable compared to the standard oral appliance – although this may be the best starting point.
  • Strongly recommended by ACP for less severe versions of OSA.

Snoring Surgery

  • Surgery however is not listed in the ACP’s summarized recommendations, but the guideline does specifically discuss its role as a treatment for OSA. It highlights that surgical procedures, which are intended for sleep-disordered breathing, are not as effective as either CPAP or using MAD’s. Currently success rates vary greatly and can be as low as 20%, as well as it sometimes requiring several procedures.
  • Not currently recommended by ACP to American Physicians.

More and more clinics, doctors and hospitals in the USA now recommend using oral appliance technology in the form of a mouthpiece to be used when sleeping and this is now becoming more accepted as a route here in the UK, particularly now that higher quality MAD’s are NHS Approved.

By John Redfern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Snoring mothers-to-be are linked to low birth weight babies

The British Press have covered this subject extensively this week based on the results of a new research study that has just been completed in the United States. The research was published in the journal ‘Sleep’.

Snoring can be more than just an annoyance to others who are trying to sleep in the same room. For pregnant women, snoring could indicate certain higher risks. Experts say that snoring may be a sign of breathing problems that could deprive an unborn baby of oxygen.

Snoring is often a key sign of obstructive sleep apnoea, which results in the airway becoming partially blocked, said the researchers, whose findings appear in the journal Sleep. This can reduce blood oxygen levels during the night and is associated with serious health problems, including high blood pressure and heart attacks. The experts stress sleep apnoea can of course be easily treated.

The study found that chronic snorers, who snored both before and during pregnancy, were two thirds more likely to have a baby whose weight was in the bottom 10%.

Newborn baby girl sleeping

They were also more than twice as likely to need an elective Caesarean delivery, or C-section, compared with non-snorers.

Dr Louise O’Brien, from the University of Michigan’s Sleep Disorders Centre, said: “There has been great interest in the implications of snoring during pregnancy and how it affects maternal health but there is little data on how it may impact the health of the baby.

“We’ve found that chronic snoring is associated with both smaller babies and C-sections, even after we accounted for other risk factors. This suggests that we have a window of opportunity to screen pregnant women for breathing problems during sleep that may put them at risk of poor delivery outcomes.”

Previous research has already shown that women who start to snore during pregnancy are at risk from high blood pressure and the potentially dangerous pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia.

More than a third of the 1,673 pregnant women recruited for the new US study reported habitual snoring. They were also more than twice as likely to need an elective Caesarean delivery, or C-section, compared with non-snorers.

Scientists found that women who snored in their sleep three or more nights per week had a higher risk of poor delivery outcomes, including smaller babies and Caesarean births.

The very worst cases of sleep apnoea can be treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which involves wearing a mask attached to a machine during sleep, which pumps oxygen to keep the airways open. Most other forms of sleep apnoea can be treated with the wearing of a simple snoring mouthpiece, similar to a gumshield that is worn for sports.

Dr O’Brien added: “If we can identify risks during pregnancy that can be treated, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, we can reduce the incidence of small babies, C-sections and possibly NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) admission that not only improve long-term health benefits for the newly born but also help keep costs down.”

By John Redfern


Sleep disorders vary regionally – and so does support and diagnosis

Recent research carried out by the British Lung Foundation, in conjunction with both Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, has highlighted that the provision of services to diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA, varies a great deal across the UK, and it doesn’t match the worst areas for the problem.

OSA is linked to serious ill health, and the figures for the problem have continued to rise steeply across the last few years. This is partly due to the higher numbers of the population reaching middle age, at which time OSA becomes much more prevalent, and also because of certain lifestyle factors. Increased weight is a major contributory factor in the problem, due to our vastly changed pattern of eating and drinking across the last decade.

The population’s average age and girth has increased, both of which are risk factors for obstructive sleep apnoea. These increases are forecast to continue.

Sleep Apnoea infographic

Disturbed unsatisfactory sleep

OSA is a condition that disrupts breathing during sleep, usually as a result of the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relaxing and collapsing to block the airway. This usually lasts for 10 or more seconds. It affects people of all ages, including up to 4% of middle-aged men, 2% of middle-aged women and 20% of those aged over 70. However, it is estimated that around 80% of cases remain undiagnosed. In real terms we estimate about four million people in the UK to be sufferers.

Although it’s relatively easy to treat OSA, when it is left undiagnosed and untreated, it has been closely linked with a range of serious health concerns including stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure. More recently, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and certain forms of cancer have also been related to it. OSA can also significantly affect one’s quality of life and ability to work, as well as increasing the chances of road accidents due to fatigue.

Regional differences

Wales, large parts of East Anglia, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North-East were found to be areas with the highest predicted rates of OSA. Larger urban areas in England and Scotland and the counties to the west of London were amongst the areas with the lowest predicted prevalence.

This pattern contrasted considerably with the availability of local sleep services for diagnosing and treating the condition, with large urban areas being better served despite the lower risk of OSA, and parts of mid-Wales, the North-West and East Anglia having much lower numbers of identified sleep centres, of which there are 289 in total, each one being required to serve an average of 1.25 million people.

Diagnosis of OSA

Professor Adrian Williams, Medical Advisor at the British Lung Foundation, Professor of Sleep Medicine at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital, and co-author of the study says in a press statement: “Too often, a lack of awareness leads to the symptoms of OSA being not recognised or dismissed simply as an irritation for anyone who shares a room with someone affected. However, OSA can have a severe impact on quality of life and is associated with a range of serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.

“In most cases, OSA is easily treatable in a way that can successfully minimise the associated risks.

Self-diagnosis is therefore often a key requirement for OSA, and fortunately, by using easily accessible NHS approved products, such as an oral appliance, or mouthpiece which keeps open the airway whilst sleeping, the majority of serious cases can be prevented and better health attained.

By John Redfern


Snoring can trigger a stroke or heart attack

Whilst waiting to go into a meeting the other day I happened to pick up a copy of a daily newspaper in the waiting area, and came across an interesting comment in the column written by the well-known agony aunt Miriam Stoppard.

It should be said that as well as having performed that role, and also that of TV presenter, she is a fully qualified Doctor, having worked in several major hospitals including that in her home town, Newcastle, before going on to become the managing director of a large pharmaceutical company. She has also written several books on health including The Children’s Medical Handbook.

Here’s what she wrote:

One of my sons snored so loudly that the whole house seemed to vibrate. It was the vibrations that worried me, not the noise.
Then I read some research showing that road workers who habitually used a pneumatic drill can get disease of the arteries in their arms due to the vibrations from the drill. It’s called Raynaud’s disease and is the result of furring up your blood vessels. In cold weather, your hands get cold and painful very quickly – so-called dead hands”.

White Finger from chain saw

Coming from an area where using this type of equipment was common, I was familiar with it, but knew it locally as ‘Vibration White Finger Disease’ – which aptly describes the look of the sufferer’s hands. It was quite common amongst Forestry workers. Medical research has proved that this arterial disease is due to the regular vibrations from industrial drills or saws.

It transpires that the vibrations due to snoring can have a similar effect to this.

Snoring can trigger stroke and heart trouble – and this is because habitual snorers are more likely to develop furred up carotid arteries – the main arteries in the neck that supply oxygenated blood to most of the brain.

Further research shows the trauma caused by the vibrations of snoring may result in inflammation leading to arteries thickening, and cutting down the blood flow.

Snoring is commonly linked to hardening of the arteries around the heart, which can lead to heart attacks. It is thought that this may be due to sleep apnoea that can cause the inflammation and contribute to furred up arteries.

We assess that three million Britons have sleep apnoea, where the tissue of the throat muscles collapses, triggering snoring and, in some cases, stopping the flow of air altogether, leading to you briefly waking up, but the majority of cases go undiagnosed – mostly because snoring is still ignored – and simple treatment such as an anti-snoring mouthpiece is so easily available. These oral appliances are worn at night, preventing your snoring immediately. They are highly effective, are non-prescription and some are also NHS Approved.

They can save lives – maybe yours. 

By John Redfern


Snoring can cause Women to put on weight

Lack of sleep affects food choices and if you don’t sleep well it can cause you to choose more high-calorie foods. So, not only does being overweight cause you to snore, it would appear that snoring causes you to gain weight too.

It’s obviously normal for a poor night’s sleep to affect you the next day and make you feel tired; if it’s a constant problem then it could have some wide-ranging effects on your health.

Several studies have suggested that a lack of sleep can increase the chance of weight gain and obesity. It may be that a lack of sleep affects hormones that help control our appetite, that people eat more calories to make up for the tiring effects of lost sleep, or that people who stay up late tend to sleep less overall and eat more calories during their extended waking hours.

Snoring and Weight gain

However, these are mostly theories, as few good-quality studies have explored the link between sleep, eating, and weight gain. To help fill this gap in what we know, researchers recruited 225 healthy, non-obese people (aged 22 to 50 years old) to live in a sleep laboratory for 12 to 18 days.

They randomly selected participants to have five nights of either:
Restricted sleep, with four hours in bed, from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., or
Unrestricted sleep, with 10 hours in bed, from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

During the day, people had regular meals and could also eat at other times, as food was always available in the kitchen. What food they ate and their weight were closely monitored, so the researchers could compare the two groups to see whether restricted sleep increased the chance of weight gain.

What did we learn?
People who had restricted sleep consumed more calories than those who had unrestricted sleep.
All of the extra calories – around 550 per day on average – were from food consumed between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
When eating late at night, people also got more of their calories from higher fat foods than at other times of the day.
On average, people with restricted sleep gained nearly a kilo of weight, while those with unrestricted sleep gained only one-tenth of a kilogram.

How reliable is the research?
This was a good-quality study. However, it’s worth noting it only included people who were healthy, fairly young, and not obese. So it’s not clear whether these findings will definitely apply to other groups of people. Also, the participants weren’t able to exercise during the study and might not have had access to all the foods they usually ate. These things might have had an effect on the findings.

What does this mean for me?
It provides good evidence that restricted sleep can increase how many calories you eat and leads to weight gain, at least in the short term. If you tend to stay up late and/or get little sleep, it may be especially pertinent to you as after 10 p.m. was when people typically got their extra calories, rather than during the day.

By John Redfern


Snoring, sleep apnoea, and sleep loss in women

Snoring, and sleep apnoea in particular, were both generally considered to be conditions predominantly affecting men but we now know this not to be the case, with the ration of men to women estimated at approximately 2:1. Since sleep apnoea is mainly a problem that is self-reported , men were more likely to seek help for this and heavy snoring, even if prompted to do so by their partner.

Approximately 50% of women snorers are believed not to report their symptoms to their GP, mostly due to being embarrassed. Some studies show that as many as 90% of more severe cases go undiagnosed in women, and women have a tendency not to report apnoea events, choking or restless sleep, whereas most men did report these matters.

Treatment however can be both simple and inexpensive and it can prevent major health problems in later life. Sufferers are often put off by the thought that the treatment most used historically was CPAP, where air is forced via a mask into the lungs throughout the whole night. More recent thinking is to recommend the use of an oral appliance for mild and moderate cases of sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnea in womenComparison showing Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP and an Oral Appliance (MAD)

The contrast is shown in the photography above where one patient is using a mask

for CPAP and the other an oral appliance – just distinguishable in the inset, with the result that this method is now much more appealing to those who suffer – both men and women. This treatment, although not quite so effective, works very well.

Snoring often results in a disturbed night and it is very common to hear a comment such as – “I barely slept last night. I just couldn’t get comfortable” – or – “I tried to fall asleep, but my mind kept racing.”

Sleep, and the lack of it, is a common talking point, and disturbed sleep generally is much more common in women than men. A woman’s experience of sleep loss is different and sometimes feminine factors are involved that may cause and maintain sleep difficulties. However, focusing on quality sleep is important to help prevent many aspects of both physical and mental health.

Disruption of sleep leads not only to daytime sleepiness, but memory lapses, weight gain, headaches, irritability and poor work performance overall. It can also contribute to psychological disorders such as depression and for the more severe cases, there’s an increased risk of high blood pressure, premature heart disease and stroke.

It’s not an area to neglect.

The best solution is an approach on several fronts including exercise, reduced alcohol consumption, healthy eating and treatment for the sleep apnoea or heavy snoring which will stop the snoring immediately whilst other things take time.

There are several treatment solutions including surgery, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) a full-face mask which works by stopping the airways from collapsing, or a mandibular advancement device, like a sports mouth-guard, that holds the lower jaw slightly forward, making more space to breathe.

Many women now opt for the mouthpiece. It’s easy to wear, quite comfortable, non-claustrophobic unlike the mask, and doesn’t create dryness of the mouth, which CPAP has a tendency to do. Mouthpieces are easily acquired as they are non-prescription, but some are NHS Approved, which is preferable, and they will bring you immediate results.

SleepPro now have a special product in their range dedicated to women only – the only oral appliance technology company to do so.

By John Redfern