Do you get up with a heavy head even after a whole night’s sleep? Do you feel sleepy and tired at work, even though you haven’t missed out on sleep the previous night?
Are you a loud snorer who often disturbs other family members? If yes, you could be suffering from sleep apnoea, a common sleep disorder, which could have fatal consequences if not addressed in time.
Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterised by frequent breaks in breathing during sleep which can last from 5 -15 seconds and even go beyond 30 seconds for some. Most patients of sleep apnoea are loud snorers who also complain of feeling tired and sleepy during the day after a full night’s sleep.
Is there a treatment for this? Click here to find out.
The main types of sleep apnoea are obstructive sleep apnoea (which occurs when throat muscles relax), central sleep apnoea (caused by improper signals sent by the brain to the muscles that control breathing), and complex sleep apnoea syndrome (a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnoea).
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common condition whereby the walls of the throat relax and constrict during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. There are two types of OSA – apnoea, where the muscles in the throat relax and block the airway for 10 seconds or more, and hypopnoea, partial blockage of the airway for 10 seconds or more.
According to Dr Mohammed Al Abri, Senior Consultant in Sleep Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, and visiting consultant at Al Hayat International Hospital, “according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are more than 70 different types of sleep disorders, some of which are common and some of which are serious. Sleep disorders are basically of two types – sleep apnoea and insomnia. While a variety of causes govern insomnia (inability to sleep), sleep apnoea (disturbed breathing during sleep) is mainly caused due to obesity and is more common in men than in women.”
Dr Abri cautions that poor sleep hygiene or bad sleep habits (sleeping late at night or at odd times during the day) can often cause cardio metabolic problems which can manifest as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, ischemic heart disease, and many other conditions.
“In Oman, sleep apnoea is very common, as in any other country,” he said adding that a sizeable portion of the population suffers this disorder in silence and never seek medical help. All those who have a loud snoring problem and who suffer from tiredness during the day, despite sleeping at night, must surely get themselves checked for sleep apnoea,” he asserts.
Obesity can increase one’s chances of having sleep apnoea by ten times, Dr. Abri discloses adding that those with craniofacial malformation, enlarged tonsils or small throats are also ideal subjects for sleep apnoea and any minor increase in weight can only worsen their condition. Alcohol consumption also increases an individual’s chances of suffering from sleep apnoea, he adds.
Patients who visit a sleep clinic for a check up have to undergo an interview, followed by a sleep study whereby the patient is called to spend a night at the sleep clinic. There he is subject to neuro-recording and respiratory monitoring to determine how serious the problem is. During this study, a full-time technician who spends the whole night monitoring the patient records the patient’s sleep pattern and the frequencies of episodes of stopping breathing during sleep.
It is very important to get this condition treated as it will prevent the patient from getting other cardiac problems or diabetes at a later stage when he has to undergo more treatment as well as seriously alter his way of life, Dr. Abri said adding that there is a move to impress upon insurance agencies to include sleep medicine under medical insurance cover.
Lastly, he mentioned that sleep apnoea is now being listed as the second common cause for traffic accidents (after cell phone usage) because a lot of people suffering from this disease tend to dose off behind the wheel while driving.
If you have 5-15 episodes an hour of stopping of breathing for more than 10 seconds during sleep, the condition can be treated by inculcating good sleep hygiene as well as tackling physical problems that cause it. However, if one suffers from more than 30 episodes then it can be considered a serious condition and patients are asked to take up a treatment called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which is a device that blows air into the patient’s airways while he is sleeping. The patient has to wear this every night (for life) to eliminate snoring, as well as to feel refreshed during the day.
Al Hayat International Hospital, Al Ghubra, has a sleep clinic. For details: +968 2200 4000