“I gave my dentist a heart attack the other day. It was only a check up, he hadn’t given me any anaesthetic or anything but you know me, I nodded off while he was checking things out …”
So said my Dad, inducing major hysterics over a cup of Saturday afternoon tea recently (not quite as much as the seat belts episode, but that’s for another time) as he recalled the poor dentist shaking him awake, yelling: ”Mr Nolan, Mr Nolan … oh” *palpable relief*
Now that we can put down to age – he is 85 this year – but how many people do you know who can seemingly nap anywhere: in front of the telly, during a conversation or – awful as this is – whilst driving?
There’s even the case of someone playing FIFA 2005 with his son, both on the same team against the computer – and from passing to his son and his son passing back, the dad dropped off!
The reason – not in all cases of course – is Sleep Apnoea, a condition that stops you breathing temporarily while asleep. It ultimately leads to loss of sleep, and therefore tiredness during the day, making it likely that a sufferer will catch some zzz’s at odd times.
So if you or your partner are falling asleep at inappropriate moments, or you’re keeping each other awake at night by your extremely loud snoring – interspersed with pauses and gasps – it might be worth checking it out.
There are two types of the condition:
The more common of the two is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) affecting 4% of middle aged men and 2% of middle aged women in the UK.
Normal breathing is interrupted by the walls of the throat relaxing and narrowing during sleep, due mainly to a lack of muscle tone in the upper airway, causing it to collapse. This results in the sufferer’s sudden snorting to wake themselves up and could be happening as many a ten times a night, leading to the aforementioned tiredness (and irritability, headaches, anxiety and even depression).
Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA) is when the brain ‘forgets’ to send you the instruction to breathe and is more complicated to treat.
So what causes Sleep Apnoea?
There isn’t an extensive list of reasons, and many of them are easily treatable:
- Drinking (particularly before going to bed)
- Being overweight
- Taking sleeping tablets or similar
There are of course some causes that aren’t so easily remedied – the shape and structure of your neck, age, family history, the menopause.
However, in less acute cases, losing weight, avoiding drug induced sleep, packing in smoking and moderating your drinking will all help to alleviate the problem, as will the use of a Mandibular Advancement Device, which holds the tongue and lower jaw forward leaving more space to breathe, preventing snoring.
More extreme cases can be treated with a CPAP device – (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which delivers a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask while you’re asleep and thus prevents your airway from closing.
Just imagine the day when you don’t wake up until the alarm goes off – wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Find out more about the condition and how it can be treated on the NHS website.