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?

Depositphotos_48099823_SleepPro

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.

Depositphotos_10841071_SleepPro

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.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15619356

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


Waistlines continue to expand – and snoring is held responsible.

According to recent data this is happening despite obesity having appeared to be reaching a plateau. Extensive research suggests that the average adult waist size increased by more than 1in (2.5cm) between 1999 and 2012 but figures for obesity as defined by body mass index (BMI) changed little over the same period.

Weight gain woman getting dressed wearing jeans

 

Factors such as snoring causing a lack of sleep are getting the blame and in all, 25% of the UK population now suffers from some form of sleep disorder that results in excessive daytime sleepiness.

Very accurate figures from the USA show that the average male waist size is now 40 inches, and 38 inches for women – and the UK is rarely far behind.

Current UK figures estimate that there are now around 15 million snorers and one third of these are women. The female percentage of the total is also growing. In addition, research reveals that two thirds of partners normally only manage between three and five hours sleep a night usually because those sharing a bed with a ‘simple’ snorer can have to endure noise which can reach as much as 100 decibels.

 

Many women are now admitting to having a ‘simple’ snoring problem for the very first time.Are you a woman and do you snore? If so, we would like to hear from you or your partner to hear your different viewpoints.

 

So-called “simple” snoring is much more common than obstructive sleep apnoea, but it can be more difficult to treat. There are plenty of adverts in newspapers and on websites for devices ‘guaranteed’ to stop you snoring!  But do they work? The answer is probably not. The only stop snoring device approved by medical experts is the mouthpiece, or oral appliance, sometimes called an MAD – or a mandibular adjustment or advancement device to give it the correct full title.

The mandibular device eases the lower jaw forward onto the upper jaw, so that there’s more space at the back of the throat and breathing is easier. Simple things like losing weight, not drinking alcohol or taking sedatives 4 hours before going to sleep can help.  There is little evidence to show that surgery – which was in vogue about 10 years ago – actually works.

Snoring occurs when the soft palate tissue at the back of the throat relaxes too much, obstructing the entrance to the throat. As air tries to pass through, the soft palate vibrates and produces the snoring sound.

The problem may get worse with age but one of the main causes is size and body shape. People with short wide necks are most prone to snoring because the muscles around their windpipe can’t support the fat around it when the person is asleep. As a general rule, anyone with a collar size of 16.5 inches or more is likely to snore.

Other snorers may have poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, with muscles that are too relaxed and so contribute to snoring. It may be due to large throat tissue. Children with large tonsils often snore. It could also be an obstructed nasal passageway. People with blocked noses often snore.

But it can be stopped – a simple oral appliance will do that immediately for most people, bringing you a wide range of health benefits, better rest, and if this is combined with a simple weight loss programme then great results can be achieved by anyone.

A much healthier life follows when you start to use a mouthpiece.

By John Redfern


Treating Sleep Apnoea can balance the NHS budget

Can the NHS cut costs and meet rising expectations?  Treating OSA could save it £28 billion per year and the diagram below shows how cutting down the treatment being required for so many health issues could do it.

Male figure in anatomical position

In all cases these are the Government’s own figures that are being used.

Although all the major political parties have pledged to protect the NHS from spending cuts, after a period of unprecedented growth there is now the prospect of a both a funding freeze, or close to it, and cut backs in some vital services including A&E. and the provision of some life-extending drugs. Other changes include elderly care, with more having to be done at home under family supervision at the individual’s own cost.

This would be the most austere period for the NHS in over thirty years.  Even with funding held constant, rising demands from an ageing population, together with higher public expectations driven by clinical developments, mean there is likely to be a substantial “funding gap” to be met by improvements in ‘productivity and efficiency’ – for want of a better term.  The NHS Chief Executive estimates that savings of around £25 billion will be required to maintain the quality of care that is currently on offer.

In last week’s Westminster debate, Government figures stated emphatically that improved and more widespread treatment of OSA would save the NHS £28 billion per year if it happened. Other countries have adopted this type of treatment plan and success stories are already in existence – yet we lag behind. Other nations are training both doctors and dentists to understand sleep apnoea better, and treat it, but it’s not happening here as yet.

The good news is that rather than wait until obstructive sleep apnoea is so severe that it demands supervised medical care, including the costly use of CPAP, a pump that is used all night to force air through a face mask, it can be stopped easily – and often reversed as well.

Mild and moderate OSA sufferers need only to undertake a programme of simple oral appliance therapy to do this. This recent recommendation was made by a team of medical experts at the UK’s leading specialist centre for sleep disorders. Papworth Hospital is world-renowned in its field and it leads the way as Britain’s top heart and lung specialist hospital, as well as having the largest respiratory support and sleep centre in the UK.

The team at Papworth tested a range of different types of oral appliances and stated that SleepPro Custom should be used as the foremost appliance to treat mild OSA, and also that it should replace CPAP for moderate OSA sufferers – particularly the many who disliked the uncomfortable side effects of CPAP, and often stopped using it because of this.

If you do this for yourself, and the NHS does the same in its turn, then not only will it safeguard your future health, but also free up NHS budget for other things. It’s a very small cost to extend or even save your life.

By John Redfern


UK Parliament debates sleep apnoea and the costs to the NHS

Earlier this month, British members of parliament (MPs) held a debate on the steps that the government should take to facilitate the better diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

The BBC recorded the 30-minute debate in full and a link to this is provided at the foot of this article if you wish to view and hear it online.

Debate on Sleep Apnoea

Julie Hilling, Labour MP for Bolton West, led the debate and stated. ”We need to make both the public and medical practitioners aware,” Hilling said after relating stories of several constituents who suffered with delayed sleep apnoea diagnoses.

The cost savings to the NHS of treating OSA patients would be enormous, Hilling said. “Currently we estimate that only 22% of all OSA patients are treated across the UK. If we were to Increase diagnosis and treatment rates to 45% of all OSA patients—just 45%—this could yield an annual saving of over 28 billion pounds to the NHS.” “It seems to me the time for talking is over…It’s now time to take action,” said Hilling in conclusion before passing the debate to the Health Minister.

Health Minister Norman Lamb replied that he agrees about the need to raise awareness and understanding, not just among the general public but also particularly among general practitioners. He concluded by saying the economic case demonstrates that better preventative work will save the system massive amounts of money and improve constituents’ lives both in quality and length.

At SleepPro we have often focused on OSA and Health Costs – not only for maintaining quality of life and good care for the more elderly members of our community, but also for cutting back on a wide range of the major illnesses including Cancer, Coronary Disease, Diabetes and some of the other serious illnesses at a younger age level. OSA does not discriminate and exists at all ages – even in babies.

The NHS is costing us all significantly more each year and statistics show that with higher unemployment and more people on Pension and State Benefits, the Government need to make the public aware of the increasing burden on the taxpayer and the possible resultant lowering of service provision.

Reducing snoring and other major sleep disorders can help significantly in taking pressure off the soaring NHS budgets and that can help us all.

Leading specialists estimate that 200,000 people in the UK suffer from sleep apnoea, but many however are totally unaware they have the condition, and only one in five get the appropriate treatment – and that figure excludes the many millions of snorers whose health suffers as a consequence of doing so – again a problem ignored by the majority.

They state that “Widespread availability of resources to diagnose and treat sleep apnoea patients are urgently needed to reduce the crippling health and economic burden of this condition. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of people with sleep apnoea is of paramount importance.”

If you suspect that you suffer from this condition – act now – and read this website for more details of the condition. Using a simple oral appliance, like a sports gum shield, could save your life or that of your partner.

The SleepPro Custom does exactly that and is not only NHS Approved, but has been recently researched alongside other products by Papworth Hospital’s specialist medical team, and is recommended by them as being the leading recommended solution for OSA and snoring.

LINK to Parliament Debate

By John Redfern


Stopping Snoring • True Stories

As specialists in helping to eliminate sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnoea we regularly hear from people about their problems and experiences and it’s rewarding to know that we have improved sleep and breathing issues for so many people over the years. We are privileged to hear personal stories that remind me of the importance of helping people get good sleep and the role sleep plays in the quality of their lives and the lives of those we love. Our sleep not only affects both our  short and long term health but also our perspective on life, our happiness and our ability to enjoy each and every day. We are often given a glimpse of the impact that improved sleep has had on their lives by eliminating or reducing serious snoring problems so I would like to share some of these stories with you.

Chef couple man and woman posing in kitchen

The first story comes from a married couple who travel a great deal in the summer providing specialist back up as chefs to hotels in the busy summer period when there are more visitors, and of course the usual flurry of weddings. Oral appliance therapy provided the ideal solution for their different, yet related, health and sleep concerns. He has successfully used an MAD for snoring and moderate obstructive sleep apnoea, and her upper airway resistance syndrome and morning headaches have been resolved by using a simpler mouthpiece. Last summer they visited 10 different hotels only to discover that they and only one other couple were able to sleep in the same room together! They hadn’t realised how widespread the effect of snoring and OSA was on couples and their intimacy, and they were grateful to have taken the simple steps to get the problem solved.

Secondly, a father and his daughter attend a family reunion together each year. Last summer his snoring had become so unbearable in the night that her only reprieve was on the other side of the hotel’s bathroom door. He awoke to find his young daughter curled up in the bottom of the cold bathtub asleep. While impressed with her resourcefulness, it broke his heart to think that she was so desperate to escape his snoring she would abandon the comfort of her bed to get any semblance of sleep that night. But it was not in vain because it finally prompted him to find a solution. It was a timely event because he realised he was suffering from mild sleep apnoea. A year later, after sleeping by using an oral appliance, he is healthier and far more energetic. During this year’s annual reunion trip, his daughter was amazed by her father’s quiet and peaceful sleep throughout the night. She got to sleep in the comfort of a real bed and enjoy her time with her father this year … and we hope this will be for many years to come!

The final story comes from a typical loving couple who simply could not sleep together anymore. Over the years, his loud snoring had driven them apart and into separate bedrooms. Understandably her partner’s snoring led to her irritability and lack of energy, which prevented them from enjoying their life together. He went ahead and acquired a custom fitted mouthpiece without telling his wife, and when it arrived, she was furious at first that he had spent the money. It seemed he was in the doghouse, but he was almost immediately redeemed after just one night. His snoring stopped and his wife had the first quiet restful sleep in years. He had given her the best gift possible – a good night’s sleep!

Stories like these are not uncommon – we hear them all the time. Yet 80 per cent of people who struggle and suffer from unresolved pain and sleep problems remain undiagnosed. That’s why patients like this need to share their stories to help other people live healthier and happier lives.

By John Redfern


Sleep apnoea is a risk factor for strokes

“Sleep apnoea is one step removed from the heart attack or stroke — it’s what the sleep apnoea does to the circulatory system and heart that causes the stroke,”

Dr. Belen Esparis, who is the Medical Director of the Mount Sinai Medical Centre for Sleep Disorders in Miami, USA, has seen many patients who have been in car accidents after falling asleep at the wheel, and others who have developed abnormal heart rhythm, and they all have one thing in common. They all suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea, a common sleep disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep, which can occur as many as 100 times per hour.

Team of doctor running in a hospital hallway with a patient in a bed

This sleeping disorder mostly affects people aged 40 and older, often who are overweight. More men than women suffer from the sleeping disorder, but it becomes more common amongst both sexes as they age.  It can however be found in younger people – and even children and teenagers.

Sleep apnoea is known to cause a range of cardiovascular, neurological and behavioural problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, poor memory, Diabetes Type II, lack of concentration and depression.

It is also known to be a serious risk factor for strokes.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted, depriving the brain of the vital oxygen supply. A stroke may of course be caused by a narrowed or blocked artery supplying blood to the brain or by a burst blood vessel in the brain.

The interruptions in breathing that characterize sleep apnoea also lead to low oxygen levels in the blood and brain.

“Sleep apnoea triggers a series of responses in the body as a result of low oxygen levels,” Dr. Esparis said. “One of them is hypertension — an increase in blood pressure.”

Hypertension associated with sleep apnoea occurs because of the strain that low oxygen levels in the blood and brain place on the cardiovascular system. As high blood pressure is an independent risk for stroke, sleep apnoea becomes an indirect cause of stroke.

It is important to note that the effect of sleep apnoea on the circulatory system and all the bodily processes associated with low oxygen levels and hypertension will not put people at risk for stroke from one day to the next. It takes several years or even decades of all these things running in the background to make a stroke happen.

To eliminate the potential for strokes and other risks associated with low oxygen levels in the body, sleep apnoea must be treated. In extreme cases, continuous positive airway pressure machines, known as CPAP, use nose masks and a hose connected to the machine to deliver pressurized air to the lungs throughout the night.

For overweight patients who are at risk – or who suffer from less extreme forms of sleep apnoea, the medically recommended route is to use oral appliance therapy and not CPAP, which many patients dislike.

For mild to moderate cases of sleep apnoea, specially fitted mouthpieces such as the SleepPro Custom are available without prescription and these will eliminate snoring and apnoea problems immediately. They will also feel comfortable as they are custom fitted to the shape of your mouth and will allow you to sleep well. Couple this new found sleep regime with a simple programme of weight loss and the whole problem of sleep apnoea and the associated health problems will stop and is even reversible.

By John Redfern