11 March 2019
Waking up, not feeling refreshed from sleeping can be emotionally and physically draining. But when someone is suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) it can drastically reduce their quality of life, cause health issues, and result in accidents. Sufferers feel as if they are living in a fog, with many saying that they are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel (sleep apnoea sufferers are about four times more likely to have car accidents).
It is estimated that about 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from the condition, although doctors warn many people will have never been formally diagnosed.
Dr Grace Robinson, a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Spire Dunedin Hospital writes: "In the UK we think about 2% of adult females, and 4% of adult males have significant sleep apnoea. However, it is suspected that 80% of those with the condition are unaware they have it.”
She continues: “If you are a loud snorer and/or have been observed suffering 'apnoeas' where you have briefly stopped breathing whilst sleeping, you are likely to have sleep apnoea. But it's only a problem, requiring treatment, if it's severe enough to disturb sleep sufficiently overnight to cause the individual to become tired and sleepy in the daytime.
“The most common cause of sleep apnoea is being overweight or obese, as the weight of fat around the neck contributes to the excessive narrowing, and possible blocking, of the throat during sleep in those suffering OSA. Smoking, alcohol and a blocked nose can also contribute. In the general population it is more common in people with a slightly recessed lower jaw, whilst women have an increased risk of suffering from OSA after the menopause.
“Treatments include weight reduction and abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes. Nasal decongestants may also help.
“Mandibular or jaw advancement devices may be helpful in mild sleep apnoea. Those with more severe sleep apnoea may require CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure treatment delivered through a mask) at night.
“There are DVLA driving regulations in place, and for those with untreated OSA driving may be restricted, because of the risk of a road traffic accident when tired and sleepy in the daytime. Once treated individuals can drive again.”
If you are feeling exhausted after a night’s sleep, snore, and find there is a high chance that you doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, talk to your GP about being referred to our Respiratory team.
- Sitting and reading
- Watching television
- Sitting inactive in a public place, eg theatre or meeting
- As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
- Lying down in the afternoon, when circumstances permit
- Sitting and talking to someone
- Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
- In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic