Sleep apnoea, also known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), is a health condition where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat collapse and narrow when you sleep. OSA can either result in complete blockage of the airway (known as apnoea) or a partial blockage of the airway (known hypopnea), and most people with the condition experience episodes of both. These continuous sleep interruptions can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest, which can in turn make you feel fatigued during the day and have a knock on effect to your health.
What are the symptoms?
When the walls of the throat narrow during the night, the airways become blocked and this disrupts normal breathing. The lack of air causes the brain to bring you into a lighter sleep or wake you up completely so you can breathe properly again. When you fall back into a deep sleep, more episodes can happen. In fact, with severe cases, it can occur every couple of minutes for the duration of the night. The condition can cause you to snore, make snorting and sputtering noises as you sleep and make your breathing generally louder.
In most cases, people with OSA only realise that they have the condition when a partner or a family member notices symptoms when they sleep. As many people don’t know that they have the condition, it often goes undiagnosed. It the problem goes untreated for a long period of time, it can have a detrimental effect on your quality of life, impede your ability to function properly during the day and cause tension within your relationships. It can also make you more prone to accidents and put you at an increased risk of developing serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke, an irregular heartbeat and heart attack.
What causes it?
When we sleep, our throat walls and soft tissues relax. However, people with OSA experience breathing problems when this happens. The interrupted breathing can be triggered by a number of factors, such as being overweight, having a large neck, taking sedative medicines or muscle relaxants, having an unusual neck structure (for example a narrow airway or large tonsils), smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
OSA also tends to be more common in men than women and most cases are found in people aged 30 to 60 years old. However, anyone at any age can develop the condition.
When should I see a GP?
OSA is considered a health risk so you should always see your GP as soon as you notice symptoms. You doctor will be able to check for underlying issues that could be causing the condition and may arrange for you to have a sleep assessment.
How can it be treated?
The good news is, most cases of OSA can be treated by simple lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight by doing more exercise and eating healthily can ease pressure in the throat. Cutting down on alcohol, especially at night, quitting smoking and sleeping on your side rather than on your back can also help. It is also a good idea to avoid taking medication that causes your muscles to relax, such as sleeping tablets.
There are also a number of devices you can use to help reduce symptoms, such as a continuous positive airway pressure mask, which is designed to stop your airways from closing during sleep by administering a constant supply of compressed air. A mandibular advancement device can also be worn around your teeth to push your tongue and jaw forward and open up the throat.
Surgery is only generally considered if the condition is caused by a physical abnormality that can be corrected. It may also be used as a last resort if all other treatments have failed to work.
It is worth bearing in mind that although self help treatments can help you manage the symptoms, the condition cannot always be cured. In most cases, treatment needs to be ongoing.
How can adjustable beds help?
Our adjustable beds can help combat some of the symptoms associated with sleep apnoea. With the touch of a button, the bed can be adjusted into a number of positions to help alleviate strain on the muscles in your throat and promote easy breathing to help you get a sound night’s sleep. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated is known to help reduce gravity’s pull on your neck. These beds can be used as lifelong treatment and can be a worthwhile investment for your health and relationship.
If you want to find out more about our adjustable beds, browse our website further or get in touch with our specialists. Our expert team are on hand to provide you with more information and they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.