New Report: Half of women may have Sleep Apnoea

Sleep is a big topic these days. Turn on the TV or radio and you’ll probably hear someone discussing sleep medicine. There have been broadcast several conversations about sleep recently on topics ranging from surgical options to sleep-inducing drinks. And books are being written everyday on sleep topics, as well as ongoing articles in national magazines – particularly on the subject of snoring

For many years this has been regarded as strictly a male preserve but the emphasis has started to shift recently. In fact half of all the women given overnight sleep tests for a new study were found to have mild-to-severe sleep apnoea – a staggering percentage.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious snoring disorder in which the sufferer stops breathing during sleep for at least 10 seconds. It’s generally associated with men, but researchers in Sweden recently set out to determine the frequency of the problem in women. The results were surprising. Half of the women in the study experienced obstructive sleep apnoea, with 20 percent having moderate and 6 percent having severe symptoms.

The report has been published in the European Respiratory Journal and was based on women between the ages of 20 and 70 from a large population sample of 10,000.

The participants of the study were monitored during sleep for heart rate, eye and leg movements, blood oxygen levels, airflow and brain waves. Half experienced at least five episodes an hour when they stopped breathing for longer than 10 seconds. And for women with hypertension or who were obese, the numbers reached as high as 80 to 84 percent.

The results were very clear cut and seem to have started many alarm bells ringing – it was important enough to have been picked up and covered by the UK National Press including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Age played a big part and the disorder was found to be more prevalent in older women: Among women aged 20-44, one quarter had sleep apnea, compared to 56 percent of women aged 45-54 and 75 percent of women aged 55-70.

Occasional cessation in breathing during sleep may happen to everyone from time to time, but in obstructive sleep apnea there are at least five times when breathing stops, for at least 10 seconds each time, within an hour. Patients with really severe symptoms may stop breathing hundreds of times in one sleeping session.

Sleep apnoea is a serious health problem and is tied to a higher risk of depression, stroke, heart attack, cancer and early death. Importantly it can be minimized or even eliminated by simple anti-snoring devices such as Mouthpieces worn at night.

Many patients are not aware of their sleep disorder, and knowing these symptoms can often help:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep that is witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnoea
  • Awakening with a very dry mouth or a sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Attention problems during the day

In some occupations, particularly when driving or being in charge of any machinery, sleep apnoea is extremely dangerous due to the possible lack of attention or even from falling asleep briefly.

Another recent study also found that women who have sleep apnoea are more likely to develop memory problems and dementia.

One piece of important advice – Do not Ignore it.

If you suspect problems take advice from your GP who may even ask you to attend a specialist NHS Sleep Centre for further tests and confirmation of the symptoms.

Act now – because it will not go away – it will simply get worse.

By John Redfern

Take a look at our YouTube videos for more info.

Stop Snoring – Naturally

A friend asked me the other day how to stop snoring “naturally” without any help from mouthguards or other items that a GP or Dentist might recommend them to use. My immediate and only answer to him was that ‘Naturally it’s very difficult’. I’m sure he understood fully what I meant.

Any Doctor or Dentist, if consulted about excessively loud snoring will adopt the very same viewpoints with their patients. It’s just like buying a property. There are only three things that are important. In this case it’s Lifestyle, Lifestyle, and Lifestyle.

It’s important to remember that we produce the sound of snoring due to the vibration of the skin in the throat or the mouth when air is forced through it during sleep; just like blowing a reed instrument really. The passage of air causes vibration that produces a sound – and usually a loud one – called a snore – and that is the problem that has to be resolved by tautening the loose tissue in these areas. That can take a long time.

The next questions of course are how did this happen to us and how do we fix it?

We’ll start by answering the ‘fix it’ part of the question because that will tell us a great deal about how it happened.  The main advice you will receive if you want to stop snoring “naturally” is something like the following very unpopular set of instructions.

Quit smoking, drink a lot less, particularly late at night, and lose weight. What pleasures will there be left for us all if we don’t do as we’re instructed. We will finish up either shattered through a serious lack of good sleep, or divorced – and sometimes both.

But of course it can be done. Take the natural route to stopping snoring and sign up now for Weightwatchers, Alcoholics Anonymous and enrol in ASH. What joy our lives will be.

To be serious however it’s important to work on our lifestyle for lots of very important reasons, and not just the reduction in the problem of snoring. But at the same time it’s a long hard road and a little help along the way will not hurt. The first thing your GP or Dentist will recommend is this more sensibly balanced approach to your health, but they will also probably recommend a little help while you’re waiting for the results of your very hard-earned new healthy image to kick in.

Most NHS Sleep Centres or Clinics will recommend that you try a mouth guard, or MAD, to give its correct title, a Mandibular Advancement Device. I suggest you stick with dental mouth guard or mouthpiece. It’s much harder to get the correct title out of your mouth than it is to put this simple item in there.

They’re easy to use, very low cost and have an excellent proven record of success for most snorers, which is why they are recommended. They’re safe, unlike surgery, and simple and pretty comfortable to use, unlike CPAP oxygen intake systems.

It’s really just like the Meerkat says in those TV commercials for insurance – Simple!

By John Redfern

Take a look at our YouTube video for more information!

What’s a good night’s sleep – eight hours – or four hours twice?

If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep again – it could be good for you. There’s a growing body of evidence from both science and history that suggests that an eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

In the 1990s, a psychiatrist named Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week they had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, and then woke for a few hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.

Just after this, a historian at Virginia Tech published a paper, based on 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct sessions.

He found more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern – in diaries, court records, medical books, literature, and from Homer’s Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria. Just like the psychiatrist’s experiment, the references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

What did people do during those middle hours?

Well it would seem they were quite active. They got up, visited neighbours, and even went to Church. Most people however stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. And these hours weren’t entirely solitary – people often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex.

A doctor’s manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day’s labour but “after the first sleep”, when “they can have more enjoyment” and “do it better”.

Why did it disappear?

It seems that this first and second sleep pattern began to disappear during the late 17th century, starting with the wealthy urban classes of Western Europe, and filtering down across the next 200 years to the rest of Western society. By the 1920’s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.

Another leading historian has put forward ideas of why this happened.

“Associations with night before the 17th Century were not good,” he says. “The night was a place populated by people of disrepute – criminals, prostitutes and drunks. Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige or social value associated with staying up all night.”

That changed following the Reformation and the counter-Reformation. Protestants and Catholics became accustomed to holding secret services at night, during periods of persecution. If earlier the night had belonged to reprobates, it was now the opposite. This trend migrated to various other groups, but in those days only for those who could afford to live by candlelight.

With the advent of street lighting, however, socialising at night began to filter down through the classes – and that happened sooner than you may think.

In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed. London didn’t join their ranks until 1684 but by the end of the century, more than 50 of Europe’s major towns and cities were lit at night.

Enjoying the ‘Nightlife’ then became fashionable and spending hours lying in bed was considered a waste of time.

There was other strong evidence of this shifting attitude. It is even contained in a medical journal from 1829 that urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep.

Most people seem to have adapted well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep and Russell Foster, a Professor of Circadian [body clock] Neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view.

“Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”

But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

Foster says: “Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep or the lack of it. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied.”

So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you. Maybe.

By John Redfern

Take a look at our YouTube video for more info.