Is sleep apnoea keeping you up at night?
It’s Sleep Awareness Week and Lite n’ Easy dietitian, Ashleigh Jones shares the facts on sleep apnoea and how weight can be a contributing factor.
Most of us are well aware that sleep is crucial to our health and well-being. However, for some people, getting a good night’s sleep is not as simple as ditching the coffee and avoiding the phone before bed. In fact, around 5% of Australians are waking up groggy and fatigued and it’s got nothing to do with their night time routine. They’re actually suffering from a condition known as sleep apnoea.
What is sleep apnoea?
There are different types of sleep apnoea, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition that occurs when the walls of a person’s throat come together while they sleep. This is effectively blocking off their airway. This will cause a person to stop breathing for a period of time. Until their brain realizes what’s going on and sends a signal to wake them up, usually resulting in a snort and/or gasp. People with sleep apnoea often don’t realise they are waking up. They can then fall back to sleep immediately after gasping awake.
This cycle can repeat several times throughout the evening. In some cases more than 30 times per hour. This means a person with sleep apnoea will have heavily disrupted sleep. They will often wake up feeling exhausted, despite going to bed at a reasonable time. It’s also incredibly dangerous. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of motor vehicle and other accidents. While the disrupted flow of oxygen can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The symptoms of sleep apnoea include fatigue, particularly during the day, irritability, trouble concentrating, mood changes and reduced libido. Obstructive sleep apnoea is particularly common amongst people who snore.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious medical condition which can be caused by a variety of underlying factors such as obesity, alcohol consumption, nasal congestion, medications and physical obstructions such as enlarged thyroid (goitre) or enlarged tonsils. Whatever the cause, it is essential that anyone showing signs of sleep apnoea speak with their GP, and undergo any tests required to make a diagnosis.
Weight loss is recommended as a first line treatment for people who are overweight and have obstructive sleep apnoea. This can be an effective treatment because losing weight reduces the amount of flesh around the airways. Which reduces the likelihood of the throat closing over the airway during sleep. For some people, particularly those with mild sleep apnoea, weight loss alone is enough to manage their condition and get a good night’s sleep.
Reducing alcohol is also recommended. Alcohol not only disrupts our sleep-wake cycle, but also causes muscles to relax. Which may contribute to airway obstruction.
Medical and lifestyle interventions
Some people will require a combination of medical and lifestyle interventions. If weight loss alone is not enough to manage obstructive sleep apnoea, medication may be required to manage underlying conditions. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can be used during sleep to keep airways open and functioning. CPAP technology has come a long way in recent years and there are now lots of affordable, compact models available.
If you think you might be suffering from sleep apnoea, have a chat with a GP about your signs and symptoms. This condition is treatable, and might be something stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep!
Why Lite n’ Easy?
Lite n’ Easy delivers great tasting, healthy food that makes it easy to lose weight and manage your weight. Lite n’ Easy offers a range of healthy meals and convenient meal plans which take all the guesswork out of eating well. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or order online now.
Ashleigh Jones is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive dietetics experience working across hospitals, corporate health, private practice and the food industry. A published researcher, she has collaborated actively across several disciplines including genetics, multiple sclerosis and sports nutrition. Ashleigh specialises in endocrine disorders with particular interest in weight management, pituitary and thyroid disorders, and management of diabetes. Ashleigh is passionate about promoting healthy habits, especially for busy people and offers simple and sustainable nutrition solutions.