Many people are tired because they’re stressed by certain aspects of their life. They work too hard, play too hard and cut back on sleep. But there are many very serious medical causes that need to be addressed too, the most common being that of sleep apnoea. In reality, all adult males and post-menopausal females suffer a degree of sleep apnoea and one question will determine whether this needs to be investigated further and managed.
The question is very straightforward and strangely not related to the amount of snoring you may do. When you wake up in the morning after what you perceive to be a reasonable night’s sleep, do you feel refreshed? If the answer is no, it’s likely you have significant sleep apnoea that needs management. The problem is that the treatment is often more difficult than the complaint.
There are two basic types of sleep apnoea: the most common being obstructive sleep apnoea, where the upper airway closes down during deep sleep, and central sleep apnoea, which is the less common form and is typically due to some disorder of the brain.
Firstly, there are many lifestyle factors that contribute to sleep apnoea that need to be addressed. The modern epidemic of obesity is a major factor, as is excessive alcohol and cigarette smoking. Other contributing factors, such as thyroid issues and many modern medications (typically sedatives and analgesics) may also contribute to sleep apnoea.
After lifestyle factors have been addressed, the two effective treatments of sleep apnoea include some sort of mandibular advancement device (basically a very fancy mouthguard, typically organised by a dentist with an interest in this area) and the more definitive therapy, the nasal CPAP mask. Basically, the nasal CPAP delivers continuous positive pressure to the airway, keeping it open and allowing the smooth delivery of oxygen through the body via the lungs.
It’s estimated that about 1 billion people around the world have some degree of obstructive sleep apnoea. For those who are prescribed the nasal CPAP mask, only half can fully tolerate the therapy while some cannot use it at all.
Untreated sleep apnoea has been associated with a variety of significant medical conditions, including refractory hypertension, all forms of cardiovascular disease including stroke and heart attack, along with the other significant risk factors of obesity and diabetes and all of their associated illnesses and complications.
The good news is, there have been some findings from Flinders University in Adelaide that suggest a multi-level surgical technique may be very effective for those people who are resistant to the nasal CPAP mask. The surgeons remove the tonsils, reposition the palate and perform local surgery on the tongue to open up the airway and reduce obstruction. A study demonstrating the success of this technique was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on September 4.
The important message here is not to suffer in silence (you won’t anyhow, as your snoring is typically very noisy)! If you’re waking up unrefreshed, experiencing daytime sleepiness and even falling asleep in inappropriate situations, it’s vital you have a thorough assessment for sleep apnoea.
Talk with your doctor and obtain a referral to a sleep specialist for further management. You’ll feel so much better and it may even save your life.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
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