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Do you have sleep apnoea?
Posted 23 September 2020
Waking up feeling tired and unrested? It could be that your brain is startling you awake hundreds of times each night because you’re not breathing. It’s called sleep apnoea and it’s more common that you think.
Around 9% of women and 25% of men in Australia have clinically significant Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)* but Renee Wynne, Pharmacist Proprietor at TerryWhite Chemmart Wynn Vale, says some people don’t even know they have a problem.
“Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) occurs when someone’s airway (their throat) repeatedly closes while they’re asleep,” Renee says. “This causes them to stop breathing for anywhere between 10-90 seconds, until the brain notices and gives them a wake-up call. They wake up slightly, which makes their airway reopen, then go back to sleep straight away and may not even realise they’ve woken up. The severity of OSA is determined by how many times they pause/stop breathing per hour.”
Symptoms of the disorder include:
- Loud snoring
- Restless sleep
- Witnessed pause in breathing while asleep
- Choking or gasping for air
- Frequent toilet visits during the night
- Headaches during the day
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Irritability and mood changes
- Decreased libido and impotence
Am I at risk of having the disorder?
Males over 30 are more likely to have OSA, especially if they are overweight. Family history of OSA, alcohol consumption, smoking, and medications such as sleeping tablets and sedatives can also increase the likelihood of OSA, as can having a large neck size (>17” for men >16” for women), or having Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and/or depression.
How do I find out if I have the disorder?
Sleep Apnoea can be diagnosed by a sleep test in a hospital or Sleep Centre, though these require a doctor’s referral.
It can also be diagnosed by a home sleep study (which doesn’t require a doctor’s referral) which is available through some participating pharmacies.
Renee says that OSA can also lead to other health problems, so it is best to get it checked out if you have your suspicions.
If left untreated, OSA can increase a person’s risk of having high blood pressure, a heart attack or heart failure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression,” Renee says. It is important to speak with your doctor about OSA if you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, as it may also be linked to other conditions. Your doctor will either refer you for a hospital based sleep study if your symptoms are persistent, or discuss a home based sleep study option. With the hospital study you are referred to a sleep specialist who will recommend you stay overnight in hospital to have your sleep monitored and assessed by sleep technicians. Other sleep disorders may also be detected during a hospital based sleep study. A report is then provided to the sleep specialist who will discuss your diagnosis and possible treatment options with you.
What is a home sleep study?
Alternatively you can have a sleep study conducted in your own home. If you think you may have OSA, check with your GP, and then head to the pharmacy for an OSA screening questionnaire (or use the link provided at the end of the article).
“At the pharmacy, we show customers how to set up the sleep tracking device, then they take it home and attach the device as they’re preparing to go to bed,” Renee says. “They leave it on all night, take it off in the morning and return it to the pharmacy that day. The device is easy to use and testing is done in the comfort of their own home.”
The information is downloaded at the pharmacy and sent off for evaluation and validation. The results are then assessed by a qualified and certified Sleep Physician and in 7-10 days a customised sleep report is sent back to the pharmacy and an appointment is made to discuss it with the customer.
“If the results show OSA, the customer is offered a 4-week trial using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine – the gold standard for treatment of OSA,” Renee says. “The CPAP machine helps prevent a person’s airway from collapsing while they’re asleep, by providing a flow of air through their nose and/or mouth via a specialised mask. The mask is selected and fitted according to the unique needs of the person (for example if they’re mouth/nose breathers).”
During the trial, Renee encourages customers to have regular follow ups to ensure everything is working correctly and comfortably. At the end of the trial an evaluation is done and the customer may then want to purchase a CPAP machine.
“If the therapy is successful, you will have a more restful sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed, energetic and focussed,” Renee says. “It may also help to improve your mood, reduce your blood pressure, and reduce the likelihood of heart problems, type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression. It may also improve your libido and reduce the disruption of sleep for other household members due to no more snoring.”
“The benefit of purchasing a CPAP machine from your local pharmacy is you get convenient, ongoing, unlimited, personalised face to face support. You can always come in to track the progress of your therapy, let us help you make any necessary adjustments and discuss any changing needs.”
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