Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a disorder that affects about one in four men over the age of 30, and about five per cent of all Australians.

The disorder is characterised by the walls of the throat meeting during sleep, which blocks of the upper airway near the tongue.

When the blockage occurs breathing stops (normally for somewhere between a few seconds and one minute) until the brain picks up the problem and issues a quick wakeup call.

The sleeper jolts and opens the airway, makes a bit of a snoring noise and then promptly returns to sleep.

Doctors assess the severity of sleep apnoea cases based on the number of interruptions that occur each hour, with a mild case seeing between five and fifteen interruptions per hour and a severe case seeing more than thirty interruptions.

The symptoms are taxing and include poor concentration, irritability, impotence and lower sex drive, and general fatigue and sleepiness.

Obesity is one of the biggest causes of this disorder. Sometimes a person can lose five or ten kilograms and get over the problem immediately. Other causes include alcohol, large tonsils, nasal congestion, some medications and some illnesses.

There are several treatments available, with the most obvious being lifestyle changes. Reducing your weight (if you are overweight) and cutting down on alcohol are the obvious ones.

There is a device known as a CPAP that can keep the back of the through open by forcing air in through the nose. Some people find this to be very irritating.

If you think you may be struggling with sleep apnoea, see your doctor.

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