When nurturing your relationship, you may think you have all bases covered, but what about the nocturnal goings-on when you’re not even awake?
According to the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia, an estimated one in five Australians are affected by a sleep disorder, with many unaware they have one.
The Sleep Health Foundation also says poor sleep and depression are very closely linked, and treating one condition will often improve the other.
With research suggesting 60-90% of patients with depression have insomnia, and approximately 20% of people with depression have sleep apnoea, this can negatively affect your relationships.
So how do you avoid ending up in twin beds or, even worse, sleeping on the couch?
What is Sleep Apnoea?
Eric Chan, Head of Pharmacy at Blooms The Chemist, says Sleep Apnoea (also known as obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA) occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep and block off the upper airway.
“This restriction leads to a halt in breathing - usually for a few seconds - although in severe cases it can last longer, until the brain recognises its lack of oxygen and signals to wake the person up,” Eric tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Each pause in breathing is called an ‘apnoea’. Many people living with Sleep Apnoea are often unaware of their condition.”
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnoea
While some may find snoring amusing, comical even, it can indicate you have sleep apnoea, which is no laughing matter.
Eric says that the most common symptoms of sleep apnoea include loud snoring, episodes where you appear to stop breathing during your sleep, gasping for air in the middle of the night and as a consequence, feeling tired during the day despite being in bed a reasonable number of hours.
“If you sleep with a partner, ask them what they observe while you sleep.”
How Sleep Apnoea is Ruining Your Relationship
Far from being just an annoying bed-time quirk that keeps you and your partner up, waking up and gasping for air, snoring and other signs of sleep apnoea can affect mood and your ability to cope with day to day stressors, which has a significant impact on your relationship.
“Sleep apnoea can affect others around you,” warns Eric. “Your partner’s quality of sleep might be affected if you are gasping for air in the middle of the night. Your lack of quality sleep can also cause you to be irritable throughout the day.”
How Sleep Tests Are Conducted
If you think your or your partner may have a sleep disorder, there’s some simple tests that Drs can run.
Eric says that case studies have shown nearly 3 million Australians have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, yet 80% remain undiagnosed.
While some sleep tests can be conducted overnight in a hospital, one of the simplest ways to diagnose sleep apnoea is to have an at-home sleep test.
“Sleep apnoea can be diagnosed with an overnight at-home sleep test called a ‘polysomnogram’ or ‘sleep study’,” Eric explains. “The appropriate testing equipment can be fitted and hired from Pharmacies to help monitor your blood oxygen levels, brain activity, heart rate and breathing. The results are then uploaded from the testing device and emailed to a sleep specialist (a Doctor) who makes the diagnosis.”
Treating Sleep Apnoea
So you’ve had your sleep test and the verdict is that you have sleep apnoea. What’s next?
“Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are an effective way to manage people suffering from sleep apnoea,” Eric explains.”Under the direction of your sleep specialist, a prescribed setting will be used to initiate treatment to ultimately provide quality airflow throughout the night. If left untreated, existing symptoms can continue to worsen and can affect your daily activities.
"In the long term, poor-quality sleep can lead to serious health complications, including weight gain, increased blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.”
And If you’re scared you’ll end up looking like Darth Vader with a big mask and scary apparatus on your face every night to help you sleep, fear not, as sleep apnoea masks have come a long way, and you can even get ones that simply fit over the nose.
Top Tips For Better Sleep
With 77% of people who are obese also living with sleep apnoea, maintaining a healthy weight can reap benefits for your sleep.
“By reducing your weight, your sleep apnoea symptoms can also reduce,” Eric says. “In general, adopting good sleep hygiene is incredibly beneficial.
"Simple changes to your routine such as having 60 minutes of device-free time before sleeping, keeping a regular sleep time, or even cutting down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening can assist with having quality sleep.”
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