Everything you need to know about sleep apnoea

According to Healthy Sleep Solutions Australia, 1 in 4 Australian adults are at risk of developing sleep apnoea – and more than 80 per cent of sufferers are yet to be diagnosed.

So, what exactly is sleep apnoea?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is sleep apnoea?

In simplest terms, sleep apnoea is when the upper airway is blocked as a result of the walls of the throat coming together when a person is sleeping.

The person will stop breathing for some time (usually 10 to 60 seconds) until the brain has registered a decrease in oxygen levels and sends a wake-up call.

Risks of sleep apnoea

According to Better Health Channel Victoria, people with sleep apnoea have an increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident, experiencing high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

The experts at House Call Doctor advise those with sleep apnoea to consult with their regular GP for advice on treatment.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

Common symptoms of sleep apnoea include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Tiredness
  • Morning headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Night sweats
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Causes of sleep apnoea

Although there are several causes for sleep apnoea, the most common cause is obesity.

Other causes include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Medications (for example, sleeping tablets)
  • Illnesses (for example, reduced thyroid production)
  • Alcohol, particularly when consumed at night.

Treatment for sleep apnoea

Depending on the cause, there are several treatments for sleep apnoea, though most rely on lifestyle changes (for example, limiting alcohol intake or losing weight).

If the cause is a medical condition, the most effective treatment is a mask worn during sleep which prevents the throat from collapsing. This works by transmitting increased air pressure to the area of the throat likely to constrict. The difficult part for some individuals is finding a mask and machine which match their needs.

Oral appliances, such as mouthguards, can also be used as treatment for those with sleep apnoea. Mouthguards work by holding the jaw forward while the person is sleeping. If made specifically for an individual, they can be effective for those with mild sleep apnoea.

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