Leading UK sleep expert says that we must raise awareness of sleep apnoea

A leading Cambridge sleep expert has said more people need to be aware of sleep apnoea after new research shows just a small minority of women go to the doctor with sleep issues. As you are aware from a recent article, almost half of British women say they are not getting enough sleep and don’t feel well rested when they wake up. It also found despite the extent of their sleep problems, only a minority of women visit their GP about sleep issues such as difficulty sleeping and snoring.

Woman can not sleep because of the snoring of her husband

Dr Ian Smith, director of Papworth Hospital’s Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre and assistant medical director, said women and men are quite biologically different – and this is hard-wired into our sleep patterns.

“Women are more likely to be early risers (Larks) and need to get to bed early while more men are late to bed (Owls),” he said.

The impact of sleep deprivation on appearance is much more prominent in women than men with 31 per cent of women admitting that sleeping problems have caused them to put on weight and 33 per cent said it made their skin look less healthy. Women are also more prone to insomnia.

The male upper airway is more likely to narrow during sleep and this makes snoring and sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing) more common in men.

“As a consequence, about twice as many men have obstructive sleep apnoea compared to women, but about six times as many men are referred to sleep clinics for sleep apnoea and the women who are referred have often had symptoms for longer.”

“Snoring, poor sleep and sleepiness may indicate sleep apnoea which is for some a serious condition,” said Dr Smith. “People who have repeated pauses in their breathing at night are often sleepy in the day which leads to a six fold increase in the risk of car crashes. It can also cause high blood pressure with a risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Anyone with snoring and daytime sleepiness should take action in some way as soon as possible. Screening for sleep apnoea is very simple and the treatment can be extremely effective. People started on treatment usually feel transformed with much more energy in the daytime and we know that the risks of car crashes and high blood pressure are pretty much reversed.

“Some drivers may be wary of coming forward if they have heard that sleep apnoea can affect your driving licence. This is true for untreated, sleepy people but usually we can get treatment started in just a few weeks and we can prioritise professional drivers whose work may be at risk.”

Papworth Hospital is a major heart and lung hospital in Cambridgeshire, England. It is the UK’s largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital, and the country’s main heart and lung transplant centre, and was home to the first successful heart transplant in the UK and one of the world’s first beating-heart transplants. As a result of their extensive research into the success of custom-made oral appliances, they made two key recommendations in 2014 that were published in The Lancet:

  • SleepPro Custom should be offered as first line treatment for mild OSA and any form of snoring
  • SleepPro Custom should be offered as an alternative to CPAP for the treatment of moderate OSA

SleepPro Custom is the only “evidence based mandibular advancement device “ that is available in the UK at a price within reach of the average person’s pocket, and is ideal for this serious respiratory problem.

The SleepPro Custom, and the accompanying anti-microbial version, the Custom AM, is made to an individuals’ dental impression to guarantee the best possible fit available, along with extra comfort. It is a product that has been developed in Britain, is fully recommended by the NHS, and will be made and supplied from the company’s specialist UK laboratories.

‘Most people with sleep apnoea snore, but not all those people who snore have sleep apnoea,’ explains Tim Quinnell, a consultant at the Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital.

Snoring might not be life-threatening immediately, but its longer-term effects can be devastating. If you snore heavily, or suspect that you or your partner may suffer from sleep apnoea you should act immediately to prevent it.

John Redfern