Friday 13th March marks World Sleep Day 2020, a campaign that aims to raise awareness around the importance of healthy sleep. If you snore, watch out – you could be putting your health at risk.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that affects an estimated 1.5 million adults in the UK. The condition causes people to stop breathing in their sleep, and snoring is often the first symptom of it. But up to 85% of sufferers are undiagnosed and therefore untreated, putting their health at major risk.
OSA occurs when your upper airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. When you try to breathe, the limited air that passes through the blockage can result in loud snoring. OSA can affect anyone, but it’s more common in those who are middle-aged, elderly, or overweight. Symptoms of OSA include:
- loud snoring
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- headaches upon waking
- poor concentration the following day.
The condition is most commonly detected by a partner, who may notice you stop breathing while asleep, then resume breathing with a loud snore or choking sound. Although awareness of OSA is on the rise, 42% of people who snore or whose partner snores have never even heard of OSA.
Undiagnosed OSA is associated with serious health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Clinical research shows that mortality risks are higher in those who have OSA: it disrupts circadian rhythms, imbalances body and brain chemistry, interrupts cardiac and respiratory function, and elevates blood pressure. People with untreated OSA have a 2-3 times higher risk of having a stroke, and face more than 3 times the risk of premature death. It also hugely increases the risk of road collisions caused by undiagnosed sleepy drivers.
How is OSA treated?
Treatment for OSA comes in several forms. In severe cases, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) will be prescribed by a doctor. This is a bedside machine with a mask that you wear over your face while sleeping. It works by increasing the air pressure in the upper airway and throat. In mild and moderate cases, the use of oral devices (also known as mandibular advancement devices, or snoring mouthguards) are often a successful treatment. These are similar to gum shields, and work by moving the lower jaw forward to help keep the airway open and clear. The SleepDoctor Oral Device is a boil-and-bite mouthguard that can be moulded at home in under 5 minutes.
Good sleep is essential to good health. Treating undiagnosed OSA can help you feel more awake and energised during the day, as well as helping to prolong your life expectancy. For more information about OSA, click here.