In this section, you’ll learn what dangerous sleep disorders are hidden behind our apparently ‘normal’ snoring at night. You’ll learn how to recognize symptoms, what causes this malfunction and what can happen if sleep apnoea goes untreated.
How Do I Know if it’s Sleep Apnoea?
Watch the video of Sherry Taylor talking about her journey to finding out she had sleep apnoea.
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Recognise the Symptoms
Perhaps you’ve been snoring for many years and your partner is seriously worried about you. At night you stop breathing and the bedroom becomes absolutely quiet. Sometimes it lasts a few seconds, sometimes longer than a minute. Suddenly you wake with a start as your breathing begins again with an explosive snort. Your partner sits upright in bed, but you notice nothing of the nocturnal spectacle. That’s the way it goes throughout the night. . . .
In the morning you feel tired and suffer from headaches or from tension in your shoulders and neck. During the day, you always feel tired and worn out and fall asleep at every opportunity.
You can no longer keep up with the demands of the day. You have trouble concentrating and frequently lose your temper. Perhaps you have even had sexual difficulties of late. Have you also fallen asleep at the wheel?
Do a self check on whether you have the symptoms of sleep apnoea by undertaking these questionnaires. If these suggest that you have sleep apnoea you then need to seek further diagnosis. The first step is generally to discuss your symptoms with your doctor and request a referral to a sleep clinic.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
Respiratory arrest is called apnoea. Sleep apnoea means that respiratory arrest occurs while you sleep. Doctors distinguish between two forms of sleep apnoea – central and obstructive – although a mixed form can also occur.
In ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’, respiratory arrest is caused by so-called ‘obstructions’ or the closing of the upper airways. While you sleep, the body’s musculature, including pharyngeal muscles and soft palate, relax and the base of the tongue falls backwards, closing off the upper airways.
The brain, however, continues to send signals to our most important inhalation muscle, the diaphragm, and tells it to continue working. This gives rise to negative pressure in the airways, which causes them to narrow and then close off completely.
Five to 10 respiratory arrests (apnoea), each lasting more than 10 seconds, for every hour of sleep can put the body under dangerous strain. In this case, the body does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen. The organism frees itself from respiratory arrest by sending an alarm to the brain. Doctors refer to this emergency waking reaction as ‘arousal’.
What are the Consequences of My Sleep Apnoea?
The patient doesn’t notice this waking reaction even though it usually occurs several times during the night. Nevertheless, the reaction disrupts the course of sleep and its natural structure. Those affected wake in the morning feeling tired and worn out. Body and soul cannot sufficiently recover during sleep. As a result, the quality of life sometimes deteriorates considerably. A further consequence is that the risk of accidents at home, at work or behind the wheel increases greatly. Over time, the nightly lack of oxygen can damage life-sustaining organs such as the heart and brain. Additionally, the risk of developing high blood pressure increases significantly.
Those suffering from such nocturnal disruptions definitely need the help of a medical specialist. Only an expert can determine the causes and the extent of the disease.
The following can occur as a result of sleep apnoea:
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