Do you know someone that has been diagnosed with sleep apnoea and you just missed to ask what it is exactly? Are you aware that a lot of people are unaware of being affected by this sleep disorder? Could you or someone close to you be suffering from this disorder? Read on!
What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder that affects both the quality of sleep but also more importantly, the breathing process. While sleeping, the patient will stop breathing for periods of 10 seconds or longer which will wake him up as he is struggling to breathe. These absences of breathing are called "apnoeas". Usually the patient is unaware of these struggling episodes.
Is there more than one kind of sleep apnoea?
There are two types of sleep apnoea. The first is called OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) which is caused by relaxed soft tissue blocking the passage of air during sleep. The second type of sleep apnoea is called CSA (Central Sleep Apnoea) which is caused by irregular signals from the brain that affects the breathing process. In some cases, patients suffer from a combination of both types of sleep apnoea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?
The symptoms of sleep apnoea includes, suffering from excessive sleepiness during the day, having headaches in the morning, feeling irritable, being affected by mood changes, suffering from anxiety, being affected by depression, becoming forgetful, snoring loud and gasp for air, having restless sleep, having trouble to concentrate and even falling asleep during the day. Please note that these symptoms vary from person to person. Also be aware that the severity of the symptoms and the combination of symptoms vary from one patient to the next.
A look at sleep apnoea’s history
Did you know that the first case of sleep apnoea that was diagnosed happened only in 1965? This is surprising when you consider that so many people are affected by this sleep disorder. At first, only people suffering from certain health conditions such as congestive heart failure were diagnosed with sleep apnoea. It was also noticed that problems related to sleep apnoea happened following surgery particularly in people that are overweight, obese or had short necks. It was later on proven that while they were noticed in these particular cases, sleep apnoea does not only affect people suffering from these conditions or displaying these specific characteristics.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
This type of sleep apnoea seems more common in people that have a soft palate or other abnormalities such the ones related to the jaw, people who are obese or consume alcohol.
To evaluate the severity of sleep apnoea in a patient, the pulmonologist will evaluate it by using the apnoea -hypopnoea index (AHI). If a patient has less than 5 apnoeas per hour, it is considered normal. If it is between 5 and 15 it is mild, if it is between 15 and 30 it is moderate and over 30 is considered severe.
Also, the approximate time for each apnoea (breathing interruption) is usually about 10 seconds but in more severe cases, it can reach 60 seconds.
In certain cases, sleep apnoea can be cause by an external situation such as an accident, family problems, heart problems and narcolepsy. It was also held responsible either partially or totally for SIDS also known as sudden infant death syndrome.
How can sleep apnoea be diagnosed?
Sleep apnoea is evaluated in a sleep laboratory. The patient spends the night in this laboratory and is closely monitored by both a technician with visual instruments as well as various medical resources that will also verify the level of oxygen in the blood, the breathing pattern as well as the activity of the brain.
What are the available treatments for sleep apnoea?
According to the severity of the sleep apnoea, a single type of treatment may help while some cases may require a combination of treatments. The available treatments include, medication, avoid antidepressants or relaxants and alcohol, change of diet, quit smoking, surgery to enlarge the airways, devices to keep the patient from sleeping on his back, special pillows, oral devices and the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which is a machine that uses a tube connected to a mask and sends continuous pressurized air to keep the airways open.
Can sleep apnoea be fatal?
Sleep apnoea can lead to death as it takes a huge toll on the body and affects other systems which can lead to fatal situations such as a heart attack, congestive heart failure, a stroke or the patient may fall asleep while driving for example and have a tragic accident.
It is important to know that while people between 65 and 70 years of age or that are overweight are more susceptible to suffer from sleep apnoea but it still can affect people that are not overweight, infants and children as well. That is why if you have any doubts concerning a close relative, a friend or even yourself, see a pulmonologist as treated sleep apnoea can not only improve your quality of life but also give you the opportunity to live a long and happy life.