Sleep apnoea is a blockage of the airways while asleep due to relaxing and narrowing of the walls of the throat. This blockage can be partial or total. Those who suffer with sleep apnoea will experience both partial and total blockage at various times. If this occurs the brain triggers you to wake up or come into a lighter sleep and you begin breathing normally again. This pattern is very disruptive to a night of quality sleep.
The trouble with sleep apnoea is that you might not know you have it. You might feel tired during the day but will be unsure why. The reality is that you might have been waking up literally hundreds of times a night without realising it. Sleep apnoea is often observed by others – wives, husbands, partners, family – those with apnoea will snore, gasp or snort while asleep, or their breathing will be noisy and laboured.
Over time, sleep apnoea can lead to a rise in blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. It’s also been linked to weight gain.
Advice for sufferers includes losing weight, reducing their intake of alcohol, which can soften the tissue of the throat, and sleeping on your side. In some cases patient’s benefit from wearing a gum shield that holds the jaw and tongue forwards through the night to increase the space at the back of the throat.
Further advice is to stop smoking and avoid using sleeping tablets. Some sufferers benefit from reducing or eliminating dairy products from their diet.