Obstructive sleep apnoea is a common disorder of sleep. The suffer stops breathing for a short period. Risk factors include being male, obesity, increased neck circumference, smoking tobacco and diabetes. The consumption of other intoxicants and sedatives such as sleeping tablets are also causes.
Signs include loud snoring, see-sawing of the chest and tummy during sleep. Frequent waking at night occurs. Extreme sleepiness during the day occurs as a result of poor sleep at night. Classically patients are middle-aged, overweight male smokers. It is highly important to visit the GP for diagnosis and treatment if you think you may have OSA. This is because it is associated with a shortened life-span and disability through the increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebro-vascular disease (heart attack and stroke). Your GP will help you address the risk factors. These are also independent risk factors for stroke and heart attack themselves.
Your doctor may send for sleep studies which may be performed in a sleep centre. You might be filmed whilst asleep to look for the above signs and you may have your oxygen levels monitored using a light probe on your finger. The oxygen levels drop and carbon dioxide levels rise in an individual whose breathing is obstructed whilst asleep. If you are diagnosed with the condition you may be given CPAP to use at night. This stands for continuous positive airways pressure and it consists of a tight-fitting face mask. This pressurises the air, holding the airways open. This will prevent the loud snoring as well as the breathing problems.
It is important to get the risk factors under control as many of these are risk factors for stroke and heart attack as well. Diabetes is managed through monitoring blood sugars. Insulin or other treatments are used to make sure the levels remain within normal limits. Smoking can be given up with will-power, counselling and nicotine replacement therapy. Obesity is managed by improving diet and increasing activity levels. Contact your GP for help with these issues.