Sleep apnoea

    • Brief

    • Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during the night. It is usually caused by throat muscles relaxing during sleep and the subsequent collapse of soft tissue at the back of your throat blocking your airways. It may also be caused by your brain failing to send a signal to your lung muscles, which momentarily stop you from breathing. In some people, sleep apnoea may be caused be a combination of these two.

      Most people with sleep apnoea will snore loudly, gasp for air when sleeping and wake up feeling tired. The condition is more common in men over 50 years of age who are overweight. Having a large neck or narrow airways can also put you at risk of sleep apnoea.

      Sleep apnoea can usually be managed through weight loss and the use of medical devices to keep the airways open during sleep. Some people may need surgery to treat their sleep apnoea.

    • What are the symptoms?

      • Loud snoring.
      • Gasping for air during sleep because your breathing stopped.
      • Waking up repeatedly during the night.
      • Waking up with a headache.
      • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
    • What are the causes?

    • When the muscles supporting your tongue and airways relax, the soft tissues at the back of your throat collapse and your your airways narrow or closes as you breathe in, you then wake up gasping for breath. Sometimes this waking is so brief that you don't remember it, but your bed partner may notice or you may wake up feeling tired. This is the cause of sleep apnoea in most people.

      The same effect is seen when your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles. You will wake up short of breath. This is a less common form of sleep apnoea.

    • What are the things that put you at risk?

    • Sleep apnoea is most common in men over 50 years of age who are overweight. Other risk factors include:

      • Having a large neck.
      • Having narrow airways.
      • Having a small jaw with an overbite.
      • Drinking alcohol.
      • Smoking tobacco.
    • When to visit a doctor?

    • If you have any of the symptoms listed above, or your bed partner notices them, you should go see your healthcare provider. Left untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to serious conditions such as high blood pressure,  stroke, heart failure, depression and an increased chance of having accidents due to lack of sleep. You healthcare provider can test you for sleep apnoea and recommend management and treatment options.

    • How to prevent?

    • There is no way to prevent sleep apnoea. There are lifestyle choices that can help you reduce your chances of developing the condition. For example, do not take sleeping pills before bed, eat healthy and exercise frequently to maintain a healthy weight, and stop smoking.

    • How to manage and treat?

    • Self-care tips:

      • Ensure that you go to bed on time every night.
      • Lose weight through exercise and a modified diet. Losing 10% of your body weight will already reduce your symptoms.
      • Stop smoking tobacco. Smokers have much higher chance of developing sleep apnoea.
      • Moderate you use of alcohol.
      • If you use sleeping pills talk to your healthcare provider about reducing their use.
      • Some people suffer from sleep apnoea because they sleep on their back, Sleeping on your side may help reduce the symptoms. Try putting a pillow in your back to keep you from rolling onto your back during sleep.

      Treatment options:

      • If your healthcare provider thinks that an allergy or an underlying condition causes your sleep apnoea, they will treat that first.
      • You may require a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps your airways open throughout the night. In Nigeria, it may not be practical to use such a machine as it requires electricity to function.
      • Your healthcare provider may recommend a dental device that helps keep your airways open.
      • If none of these work, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to correct an underlying problem.
    • Kulawa cares

    • Do not ignore the symptoms of sleep apoea, as it may lead to serious complications. Left untreated sleep apnoea can result in high blood pressure, stroke or heart conditions. Visit your healthcare provider when you notice symptoms of sleep apnoea. With proper self-care and (if necessary) treatment the condition can be managed well and you can enjoy a good nights sleep.