Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for our health and wellbeing. Many of us snore, yet even the most noisiest sleepers seem to ignore the warning signs of a more serious condition…sleep apnea. Snoring doesn’t just harm relationships and you and your partner’s sleeping routine, it can be life threatening.
Sleep apnea affects up to 30% of men and 20% of women. It can leave you feeling very tired and, even worse, it’s associated with a variety of health problems. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, and it also becomes more common as we get older. When you have sleep apnea, you actually stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Each time this happens (which can be as many as 50 times an hour), your brain senses it and triggers you to wake up just enough to gasp and start breathing again before falling back asleep. Most people are not aware they are constantly waking up and falling asleep during the night, but not surprisingly, they feel extremely tired during the day.
Some of the serious health problems associated with sleep apnea include high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There is also evidence that sleep apnea can contribute to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Sleep apnea is also a significant cause of car and workplace accidents.
If you think you could have sleep apnea, it’s a really good idea to speak to your doctor. He or she will ask you some questions that will give a good indication of whether you have it or not. Your doctor may also ask you to take a simple sleep test (known as polysomnography) that measures your breathing and other functions while you sleep. Sleep tests can now be done in the comfort of your home, although sometimes they are done at a ‘sleep clinic’. Treatments are available that can make a big difference to how well you sleep, which in turn improves your overall health.
The most effective treatment is called Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) which involves wearing a small, specially designed oxygen mask when you sleep. This might sound uncomfortable or inconvenient, but most people get used to it very quickly and it can help you sleep soundly, making you feel much better during the day.
If PAP isn’t suitable for you, talk to your doctor about other devices and treatment options that can be tried. PAP devices are available from chemists and other suppliers. To find out more and take a free RestTest go to www.healthysleep.com.au
Do you snore? Or does your partner? How has it affected your sleep, life and health? Tell us below.