What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a disorder that involves the temporary stopping of breathing at intervals of at least 10 seconds during sleep. It usually affects men aged between 40 and 70 years old. It also commonly occurs in elderly individuals and those suffering from obesity. In general, this sleep disorder can be divided into three categories:
- Obstructive apnoea: This involves real airway obstruction.
- Central apnoea: In this case, the malfunctioning of the respiratory activity is due to a temporary loss of the nervous stimulus on the way to the respiratory muscles.
- Mixed apnoea: This last type is simply a mix of the two previous types of apnoea.
Symptoms and effects of sleep apnoea
Usually, the most common symptom of sleep apnoea is snoring. In fact, due to the dysfunction of the breath, this becomes stronger. For example, prolonged breathing pauses, groans, and puffs are observed in sleepers who suffer from sleep apnoea.
The causes of sleep apnoea can vary, but aggravating factors include the use of sedatives, hypothyroidism, nasal obstruction or the supine position during sleep.
The effects of sleep include difficulty falling asleep at night, excessive tiredness during the day, frequent headaches and concentration problems.
Medical treatment and advice
For a treatment to be considered, sleep apnoea must occur at least five times per hour and must last at least ten seconds. In this case, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible. Usually, polysomnography is prescribed, where your sleep is monitored and a sleep expert will give you their diagnosis.
However, there are a number of lifestyle changes one could undertake to reduce the risk and/or severity of sleep apnoea:
- In the case of overweight people, it is advisable to lose weight
- Avoid prolonged stops in the supine position
- Stop smoking or reduce as much as possible
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives before going to bed