asthma

Sleep Apnoea

Most of us spend at least one third of our lives asleep. Sleep is vital for physical and mental health. A lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep reduces a person’s physical and mental performance, which can have negative impacts on our daily lives.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep disorders. It occurs when the walls of the throat close together during sleep, blocking off the upper airway. The person stops breathing for a few seconds (can go up to one minute), until the brain registers the drop in oxygen levels, and sends a signal to wake up the person. The person sleeping rouses slightly, opens the upper airway, typically snorts and gasps, then drifts back to sleep almost immediately. This pattern can repeat itself hundreds of times every night, causing fragmented sleep. As a result, the person feels unrefreshed in the morning, with excessive daytime sleepiness, poor daytime concentration and fatigue.

In most cases, the person with sleep apnoea does not realise their strange sleep pattern. It is often their partner that notices them stopping breathing during the night.

Signs and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

People with significant sleep apnoea have an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The risk in developing sleep apnoea is even higher in patients who are over-weight, or have type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of OSA include:

  • Loud snoring, due to airflow through a floppy upper airway
  • Snorting or gasping for air during sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Morning headaches
  • Mood changes (irritability, depression)
  • Impotence and reduced sex drive
  • Frequent need to go to the toilet at night

Management of OSA:

The main management strategies for OSA are lifestyle changes, surgery, oral appliances and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. The method chosen depends on the cause, symptoms and severity of the OSA, and the patient’s preference and other health risks.

Lifestyle strategies include:

  • Weight and diet control
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Clear nasal passage to reduced breathing through the mouth.

Oral appliances: Used to push the lower jaw forward, which stops the tongue falling back to obstruct the throat. They can be worn during sleep, and needs to be specially fitted.

CPAP Therapy: Pressurised air is used to keep the person’s floppy upper airway open while they sleep. It does not cure OSA, but is the most effective therapy, with instant result.

Community Pharmacy offers a range of products and services to make sure you will have a good night’s sleep. Ask your pharmacist today!

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