Monday, March 15, 2021

A Guide To Living With Sleep Apnoea


A Guide To Living With Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea disorder is a potentially serious sleep disorder that can afflict both men and women and is typified by the irregular stopping and starting of normal breathing during sleep.

Although it is identified as affecting a relatively small percentage of the population, as many as 85% of people live with the condition undiagnosed or untreated.

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Symptoms of sleep apnoea

As the name suggests, the symptoms of sleep apnoea occur during sleep. These symptoms revolve around the respiratory system and typically include:

  • Interruption to normal breathing pattern with a period of stopping of breathing
  • Gasping or choking associated with the disruption to breathing
  • Broken sleep with periods of waking
  • Heavy snoring

As a result of broken sleep patterns, the sleep apnoea sufferer typically experiences the after-effects during the day. Resultant effects will typically include:

  • General feeling of tiredness or lethargy
  • Difficulty with maintaining sustained concentration
  • Headaches often upon waking
  • Irritability and mood swings

How do I know if I have sleep apnoea?

It can be difficult to self-diagnose sleep apnoea. Typically it is noticed by the partners of sufferers who can become aware of the condition of erratic breathing, the stopping of breathing, and the sudden onset of gasping or “choking” when the person’s breathing re-starts.

Getting tested for sleep apnoea

A doctor or GP may refer a person to a sleep specialist if they believe a condition of sleep apnoea exists.

Testing to confirm the condition involves the monitoring of the person’s breathing and heart rate whilst they sleep. This involves the attachment of recording equipment during sleep and may be conducted either at the specialist clinic or in the individual’s own home.

The condition varies in severity from person to person, and the severity of the condition then determines the treatment program.

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Treating the condition

For those who present with a very mild sleep apnoea condition, there is no treatment prescribed per se.

For many diagnosed with the condition, the treatment involves the wearing of basic breathing equipment (called a CPAP machine) during sleep.

The CPAP machine meters breathing air into a mask worn by the user and assists in maintaining constant breathing by preventing the airways from becoming too narrow.

It may not be necessary to wear use the equipment every night, and it may take a little time for wearers to become used to wearing the mask before it feels more natural. 

Is the equipment covered by Medicare?

Medicare may cover CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) therapy for those diagnosed with sleep apnoea. Consultation with a doctor is recommended.

The CPAP machine will usually be provided on a rental basis with the purchase of a set of recommended replacement parts, including masks and breather tubing. The consulting doctor or health care provider should provide guidance on Medicare support options.

What can a person do to prevent or minimize sleep apnoea?

In addition to the prescribed treatment program outlined, there are some common-sense steps that a sleep apnoea can take to further assist with the condition. For those diagnosed with a mild condition, this may be all that you need to do to deal with sleep apnoea:

  • Watch your diet and try to maintain a weight in a healthy range
  • Sleep on your side rather than on your back
  • Try not to smoke or aim to quit smoking
  • Avoid drinking excessively, particularly shortly before sleep

Sleep apnoea is a manageable condition when diagnosed and treated correctly. Remember to refer to a health specialist for specific healthcare advice and for information on medical equipment if it is prescribed.

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