18 August 2021
With most of us experiencing disturbed sleep at some time, Dr Ari Manuel – a Sleep and Ventilation Consultant at Spire Regency Hospital – explains one of the most common causes, the potential health consequences and treatments available.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak a stressful situation has developed for many across the UK. From being forced to stay at home, work from home and do home-schooling with children. To drastically minimising outings, reducing social interaction or working more hours under stressful circumstances. And all this in parallel with managing health risks, can have a major impact on daily functioning and night-time sleep.
The current situation is likely to have negative effects on many factors that influence sleep quality. Most people are experiencing major changes in their routines, living with uncertainty, and with stress, insecurity about their health, and worries about the situation and its duration. Most working parents are having to combine their work with home-schooling, home administration and household errands. All these adjustments in turn may affect how many hours a day they can actually spend on sleep.
Sleep problems may be an issue for most people [at some point], but some individuals are at a higher risk than others of developing sleep disorders. Women suffer more frequently from poor sleep and insomnia than men. Poor sleep is a modern epidemic, with an estimated one third of people in the UK suffering from insomnia at some point in their lives. Lack of sleep can be bad for your health, it could even contribute to a stroke or a heart attack if ignored for long enough. Addressing sleep complaints is as important as keeping your cholesterol or blood pressure in check and there is always help available to ensure you get a healthy night's sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), for example, one of the most common causes of insomnia, can be tackled in a variety of ways. As many as 700,000 people in the North West have clinically significant sleep apnoea, a condition that momentarily stops you breathing when you’re sleeping. It happens when your throat closes partially (hypopnoea) or completely (apnoea) during sleep, obstructing your airways for about 10 seconds. This will rouse you from a deep sleep or can, very briefly, wake you up. As sleep apnoea usually happens repeatedly, OSA can lead to poor quality sleep which in turn can affect your daily life, your health and the sleep of your partner. If left untreated, OSA could also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, an abnormal heartbeat and type 2 diabetes, so it is important to seek help.
The first step is to see your GP who will asses your symptoms and try to discover the leading cause for your sleep problems. You may be referred to a specialist sleep clinic where tests will be carried out to determine if you have OSA. If you do not have OSA, simple things such as a face mask or ear plugs, could make a big difference or you may be prescribed medication in the short-term to help you fall asleep or maintain sleep.
If you are diagnosed with OSA you may be recommended to try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine whereby you wear a mask which pumps pressurised air into your airways, expanding the nose, mouth and throat as you sleep. Around 60-70% of people who try a CPAP machine, are still using it after a year because of the improvement they have experienced to their sleep. The machine does not work in isolation, changes may also need to be made to your lifestyle – like reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, for instance.
OSA can affect anyone of any age and any size, but traditionally it is overweight, middle-aged men who are more susceptible to developing it. However, if your nose is very narrow or you have a family history of OSA, you may be at a higher risk. Whatever the cause, it is important to seek help if you don’t sleep well. Sleep is as essential to your wellbeing as exercise and a healthy diet. Poor quality sleep will result in you feeling tired all of the time and can lead to depression, low energy levels and low libido – so can affect all aspects of your life.
Whether you sleep too little, too much or are not refreshed, you should seek an expert’s advice, sooner rather than later. And you could soon be on the path to a restful night's sleep.
Dr Manuel offers a sleep disordered breathing (SDB) clinic weekly at Spire Regency Hospital. He utilises the latest technology to enable a home based sleep study to confirm diagnosis and discuss treatment options for sleep apnoea.
To make an enquiry or book an appointment, vist Dr Manuel's profile.