What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep Apnoea (the more common form known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) happens when the walls of your throat are partly or completely blocked during sleep.
This causes you to stop breathing anywhere from a few seconds to about 1 minute.
Your brain then realises you have stopped breathing or have a drop in oxygen levels, sending a signal for you to wake up.
Most of the time you may not even realise you have woken up as you may fall asleep again almost immediately.
Depending on the severity of your condition, this can happen a few times a night in mild cases to hundreds of times in severe cases.
The severity of sleep apnoea is determined by how often your breathing is interrupted:
- Normal sleep – fewer than five interruptions per hour
- Mild sleep apnoea – between 5 and 15 interruptions per hour
- Moderate sleep apnoea – between 15 and 30 interruptions per hour
- Severe sleep apnoea – more than 30 interruptions per hour
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea?
- Waking up gasping or choking
- Restless or broken sleep
- Frequent trips to the toilet at night
- Waking up tired and unrefreshed in the morning
- Poor concentration and work performance during the day
- Feeling excessively sleepy and fatigued during the day
- Irritability and mood changes
What Causes Sleep Apnoea?
There are a number of potential factors that cause sleep apnoea, a few are listed below:
Obesity is the main cause of sleep apnoea
- Nasal obstruction and congestion
- Alcohol, as this relaxes the throat muscles and interferes with the brain’s ability to react to disrupted breathing patterns during sleep
- Physical features such as facial bone structure, muscles and large tonsils
- Sleep medication such as tablets and sedatives
- Thyroid problems and high blood pressure
- Family history and genetic factors
Who Tends to Suffer from Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea can occur at any age, however men are more likely to suffer from the condition with around 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 years being affected.
People with naturally narrow throats or nasal passages and children with enlarged tonsils or adenoids can also have sleep apnoea.
How Can I Treat Sleep Apnoea?
There are a number of ways to treat sleep apnoea, depending on how mild or severe your symptoms are such as:
- Losing weight
- Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
- Quitting smoking
For mild symptoms:
- Try sleeping on your side or using special pillows to provide better support
- Using nasal decongestant sprays on an intermittent basis
Avoid using sleeping tablets as this can make sleep apnoea worse.
There are supplements which may manage and assist sleep, which include the following:
- Melatonin regulates the pattern and quality of sleep. This is available as a:
- quick releasing formulation in liquids and tablets, to assist people who find it hard to fall asleep
- slow-released tablet to help those who get up in the middle of the night.
- Valerian is an herb that is useful in giving people a sedative-like effect on the brain; it is safe to use short-term. Check with your G.P. or Pharmacist if you require long-term use or you are pregnant or lactating.
- Chamomile tea has a calming effect. Put two or three tea bags in a pot, then put a lid on to retain the good oils in the water.
People with moderate to severe sleep apnoea may require further treatment such as:
- An oral appliance fitted by your dentist, such as special mouthguards or splints to wear while you are sleeping — this also usually works well for mild sleep apnoea
- A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) pump, which feeds pressurised air into a face mask to hold your throat open while you sleep
- Surgery, if you have severe sleep apnoea
How Your Pharmacist Can Help
An experienced Pharmacist can assist you with a diagnosis and action plan to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Star Discount Chemist Firle has been successful in assisting many people in effectively managing Sleep Apnoea. Their friendly, caring consultants have an empathetic outlook in guiding you at the outset, from testing to understanding the prognosis and treatment options. You can book a consulting session either in the store or via phone.
Star Discount Chemist also has Sleep Apnoea clinics at their Croydon and Banksia Beach stores.
To seek further information to elaborate on this general advice, refer to your Pharmacist or GP.