Snorers beware: Your noisy night-time habit may be damaging your mood and your health even more than your lover’s sleep.
Top sleep specialists are warning Australians with a snore to see their GP to find out if they’re suffering from the serious night-time breathing condition obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
“Many snorers wrongly assume their loud breathing is just a harmless habit when in fact it could be responsible for their fatigue, their irritability and their poor cardiovascular health,” says Professor David Hillman, chairman of Sleep Health Foundation.
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The leading sleep authority is raising awareness of OSA during Sleep Awareness Week 2016, which launches on Monday, July 4.
It is estimated one in five snorers has OSA, a sleep disorder in which the upper airway partly or completely collapses during sleep, making it difficult to breathe. The condition affects at least eight per cent of Australians, with rates highest among men, the elderly and the obese.
Professor Hillman says sufferers have higher than average rates of stroke, heart disease and depression, and due to fatigue, are more likely to crash their car or have an accident at work. Despite the litany of side-effects, many sufferers soldier on without a diagnosis or treatment, he says.
“The trouble is many snorers don’t realise they’ve even got sleep apnea,” the specialist says. “They know they snore and that it’s a bit noisy for their bed partner but that’s the extent of it,” he say. “So they live each day with many of these debilitating symptoms without knowing why they feel so bad or getting the treatment they need.”
This year Sleep Awareness Week targets the thousands of potentially undiagnosed sufferers, urging them the seek help from their GP.
“Our key message is ‘Don’t ignore the (gasping) snore, especially if you’re suffering these symptoms. Sleep apnea is treatable so see your doctor now’.”
A GP can refer patients for an investigation at home or with an overnight stay in a sleep lab where a technician will monitor sleep, breathing and oxygen levels throughout the night. Those with a milder forms of the condition can try losing weight, drinking less alcohol or changing their sleep position to the side or stomach to see improvements in their condition. With moderate forms dental devices designed to hold the jaw forward can help.
“For people with more severe OSA you may need to take the next step and start therapy with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a small, quiet air pump used overnight to keep the airway open,” Professor Hillman explains.
“It stops the snoring and controls the symptoms, giving patients back their energy, alertness and positivity. That is a welcome change for both patients and their bed partners.”
The week-long campaign includes an online OSA Quiz which can be completed by visiting: sleephealthfoundation.org.au.