Are you really sleeping well?

A CPAP system - continuous positive airway - is one of the major methods of tackling sleep apnoea.
A CPAP system - continuous positive airway - is one of the major methods of tackling sleep apnoea. Juanmonino

A GOOD night's rest is vital for good health.

That is why sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea can have a debilitating effect on the wellbeing of sufferers and, in the most severe cases, can be life-threatening.

Sunshine Coast Sleep Screen Centre sleep physician Rosemary Gan said sleep apnoea, a condition caused by breathing disturbances during sleep, affected both men and women.

"It varies in severity between individuals but tends to get worse as we age," Dr Gan said.

The most common symptoms of the condition included fatigue and feeling unrefreshed after a night's "sleep", she said.

"Tiredness, irritability, poor short-term memory and concentration are commonly reported," Dr Gan said.

"A lack of energy and motivation is common. Morning headaches and high blood pressure are also often reported.

"Most people will have a history of having been noticed to stop breathing through the night.

"Night-time gasping and choking as well as disruptive snoring are also commonly reported."

But snoring should not be confused for sleep apnoea, Dr Gan warned.

"Snoring is not sleep apnoea," she said.

"Sleep apnoea is a silent event because breathing is obstructed (stopped). 'Rescue' breaths may disturb your partner's sleep.

"When you have significant sleep apnoea, it may contribute to tiredness, heart and heart rhythm disease, hypertension, worsening of medical conditions such as diabetes and also weight gain."

Dr Gan said anyone who was not receiving a good night's sleep and experiencing such symptoms should take action.

"An overnight sleep study should be considered if you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnoea," Dr Gan said.

"These can be performed either in the home or overnight in hospital. There are no daytime/awake tests that can be done to formally diagnose sleep apnoea."

Dr Gan said treatment depended on the severity of the condition: "Sleep apnoea is treated in one of three ways. Sometimes simply correcting bad habits or sleeping posture can improve symptoms of mild sleep apnoea.

"Weight loss is helpful but not usually curative of sleep apnoea.

Splints that pull the lower jaw forwards can also be used to treat milder forms. These splints are different to splints for snoring and need to be supervised by your dentist as they can change your bite and challenge the jaw joint.

"Continuous airways positive pressure (CPAP) is most commonly and effectively used for significant sleep apnoea. This involves the application of an airtight mask through which pressurised air is delivered to splint the upper airway open when you are sleeping."

Geoff, a Sunshine Coast sleep apnoea sufferer, said people often were unaware of the condition and had little understanding of it.

He stressed the importance of consulting your doctor if you suspected a sleeping disorder.

He said problems including stress or even a bad mattress were often blamed for poor sleep, so many people did not seek help.

Weight gain, depression, lack of concentration and fatigue were all warning signs that prompted Geoff to speak with his doctor.

"The longer you put up with and ignore the problem, the more you forget what is the norm because you've been living with it (symptoms) for a while," he explained.

He said seeking treatment for sleep apnoea was crucial because of the vast improvements it could have on the quality of life.

Common Signs of Sleep Apnoea

  • snoring
  • waking up unrefreshed
  • waking up choking or gasping
  • restless or interrupted sleep
  • daytime tiredness
  • lack of energy and motivation
  • memory loss or poor concentration
  • having high blood pressure, cardiac disease or stroke
  • poor sex drive

Topics:  sleep apnoea sleep disorder

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