Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or OSA affects millions of people every year, but since it occurs at night while you sleep, people are unaware they are suffering and therefore goes undiagnosed. Signs and symptoms include unrefreshed sleep, daytime sleepiness, depression, morning headaches and going to the toilet frequently throughout the night. For many, gagging or gasping for air at times whilst sleeping or loud snoring is common.
OSA results from the tongue and soft palate collapsing onto the back of the throat while you sleep. This obstructs the upper airway, causing airflow to be restricted or completely stop. An apnoeic event lasts for 10 seconds or more at a time. Your brain signals the body that there is a lack of oxygen and adrenalin is released and you arouse, this is where you may gasp for breath. Your airway will open the obstruction in your throat and you will begin breathing again. In patients with OSA this process will repeat itself repeatedly through the night. In some very severe cases people can stop breathing for as much as 40 seconds over 60 times an hour.
The combination of low oxygen levels and consistent, disturbed, and interrupted sleep can causes the patient to feel exhausted throughout the day, but in some cases the patient does not even know how bad their sleep really is. It is vital that if you have any symptoms you have a sleep study to assess your risk of sleep disordered breathing; as the ill effects of OSA can contribute to a host of very serious health concerns like cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack.
Repetitive airway collapse can lead to large pressure fluctuations in the lungs and oxygen deficiency which places stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. Consequently in people with OSA, the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular mortality is increased as is diabetes. Therefore it’s imperative that once diagnosed with OSA you are adequately treated.
The strains on a person’s body from arousing over and over due to lack of oxygen, as much as 500 times a night; inhibit them from getting the refreshing sleep they need. Not only is OSA a major, often unrecognized, cause of daytime sleepiness, it can also be an associated risk factor for very serious medical conditions:
Because Sleep Apnoea occurs at night while you should be sleeping deeply, diagnosis isn’t as easy as a quick visit to your local GP.
There are a couple of options where to have a sleep study. The gold standard is the in-lab hospital sleep study where your sleep will need to be monitored by a trained professional who will also use a series of highly specialised instruments to monitor your body through a night’s sleep. But for those patients who struggle to sleep in strange surroundings, there is a range of in home sleep study options.
In the comfort of your own home, the home sleep study monitors you while you sleep in your natural surroundings. You’ll be monitored through the night with specialised sleep therapy equipment in the comfort of your home and bed.
It is imperative that you have a sleep study prior to being fitted with any sort of treatment for sleep disordered breathing. Even if you think you just snore, it is possible that you have some level of OSA and may need to see a specialist. Healthcare funds recognise this and will not give any rebate for any treatment of sleep disordered breathing snoring or OSA unless the patient has had a full sleep study which has been analysed by a Sleep Physician.
You will first need to schedule a professional sleep study to properly and legally diagnose your condition as Snoring or Sleep Apnoea. You can choose to perform your study in a hospital situation with all the latest technology. But not everyone is suited to undergo a hospital based sleep evaluation and so may elect to schedule an in-home evaluation.
For patients who are extremely symptomatic or have severe obstructive sleep Apnoea and those the most common treatment is Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP). This is device involves a mask worn over your nose and or mouth attached via a hose to a small machine that blows air into your airway to keep it open while you sleep. The air pressure maintains your open airway which completely diminishes any obstructions or apnoeic events while you sleep. Due to patients having to wear a mask and the continuous air pressure throughout the night some patients cannot tolerate CPAP.
If tolerated CPAP therapy offers a considerable boost to energy levels in the day for most patients, while also boosting their overall health. For the most effective treatment, your CPAP device must be used whenever you sleep, even for short naps. This is a non-invasive form of therapy and is a safe and very effective treatment. New CPAP devices are lighter, quieter, and more enjoyable to use, so if you’ve previously tried a machine in the past but gave up on treatment due to discomfort, you may find with fitting of a newer device by a professional trained CPAP consultant this treatment can be better tolerated.