Sleep apnoea: Watch out for ‘apnoea events’ while sleeping – how to spot it

This Morning: Dr Ranj discusses sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is an umbrella term for breathing interruptions during sleep, the most common being obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). According to the NHS, OSA is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. “This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions,” warns the health body.

Apnoea events during sleep are a common sign you have OSA, according to the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH).

Apnoea events are characterised by reduced or absent breathing, explains the NIH.

Other common signs include:

  • Frequent loud snoring
  • Gasping for air during sleep.

As the NIH explains, there are a number of telltale signs that can also show up while awake.

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These include:

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue
Decreases in attention, vigilance, concentration, motor skills, and verbal and visuospatial memory
Dry mouth or headaches when waking
Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido
Waking up often during the night to urinate.

When to seek help

According to the NHS, you should see your GP if you are showing signs of OSA.

“They can check for other possible reasons for your symptoms and can arrange for an assessment of your sleep to be carried out through a local sleep centre,” says the health body.

Unfortunately, as someone with OSA may not notice they have the condition, it often goes undiagnosed, it notes.

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To circumvent this problem, the NHS recommends asking someone to stay with you while you sleep so they can check for the symptoms.

How to treat it

Obstructive sleep apnoea does not always need to be treated if it’s mild but there are a range of treatments available if necessary.

You can help to manage the symptoms of OSA yourself by making some changes to the way you live.

According to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, maintaining a healthy weight and having good bedtime habits can make a big difference.

You’re likely to need another treatment as well as making lifestyle changes.

According to the BLF, mandibular advancement devices (MADs) machines – devices you wear in your mouth as you sleep – are common.

“They bring your lower jaw forward to help keep your upper airway open,” it explains.

If therapies prove futile and your condition does not improve, surgery is usually considered, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One common surgical procedure is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – a procedure in which your doctor removes tissue from the back of your mouth and top of your throat, explains the health body.

“Your tonsils and adenoids may be removed as well. UPPP usually is performed in a hospital and requires a general anaesthetic,” it explains.

Other surgical procedures include:

  • Upper airway stimulation
  • Jaw surgery (maxillomandibular advancement)
  • Surgical opening in the neck (tracheostomy)
  • Implants.

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