We see many patients that report snoring at night and/or feeling tired in the day. One of the causes of this can be sleep apnoea, a sleeping disorder characterised by a stop-start breathing pattern while sleeping.
Sleep apnoea tends to go unnoticed by the patient and is usually identified by a sleeping partner or family member as the patient has periods of silence followed by loud snoring or gasping. Although someone with the condition is unlikely to stop breathing completely during sleep, it is still considered to be serious as it can impact how you function during the daytime. It is also linked with other conditions such as depression and half of the patients with the condition will develop type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnoea can also be a symptom of other conditions; for example, 60% of patients at The Coker Chest Clinic who are diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia (palpitations) and 80% of those with high blood pressure also have sleep apnoea.
There are several types of sleep apnoea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which is caused by soft tissue in the airways blocking airflow during sleep.
Sleep apnoea symptoms
A patient with sleep apnoea will have interrupted breathing during sleep – partners may say they heard them stop breathing in the night. This breathing pattern often presents in sporadic pauses and/or periods of shallow breathing throughout sleep.
Symptoms of sleep apnoea you may notice:
- Trouble concentrating and focussing during the day
- Feeling tired
- Low libido
- Feeling low and/or irritable
- Bad memory
- Dry mouth on waking up
- Sore throat in the morning
- Headaches when you wake up in the morning
- Frequent trips to the toilet at night
- Waking up with palpitations (can feel like choking with a feeling of pounding heart)
- Napping frequently during the day (if circumstances permit)
- Sweating in bed
- Inability to successfully lose weight
- Nightmares or vivid dreams
- Fuzzy head (foggy brain) upon waking up
Symptoms your partner may notice:
- Gasping for air
- Making choking or gurgling noises
- Frequently waking up
Whilst mild cases of sleep apnoea can cause you to wake up feeling unrefreshed, more severe cases can cause excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), which in turn can cause irritability, mood swings, loss of appetite, and an inability to concentrate. It is for this reason that sleep apnoea is often misdiagnosed as depression.
“I see many patients that have been prescribed antidepressants, but just don’t feel better. This is because the underlying condition isn’t depression at all, but obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.” explains our accredited sleep physician, Dr Coker.
Investigations & tests for sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea can be diagnosed with a multi-channel study, also known as a Respiratory Polysomnography (PSG) test. This involves monitoring a patient during sleep using special equipment to record in detail the breathing at night, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, body position, and more, in order to help form an accurate diagnosis.
At The Coker Chest Clinic, we offer two-night home-based testing to acquire true-to-life data, and for the convenience and comfort of the patient. The data that we collect from this test will be cross-examined with the patient’s medical history, along with data from other investigations (if necessary).
We do often get referrals from ENT specialists with regards to snoring. It is common that patients will first seek help from an ENT as they think that snoring is an issue with nasal blockage but it actually originates from the back of the throat. We also frequently receive patients from cardiologists due to difficult-to-treat high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia, and from neurologists for treatment of mixed sleep apnoea, obstructive and central obstructive sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea treatment
There are several recommended treatments for obstructive sleep apnoea prescribed depending on the severity of the case and whether it is linked with other conditions. These include innovative hypoglossal nerve stimulation and gold-standard treatment with a CPAP machine.
Dr Coker says, “Sleep apnoea badly affects sleep which can impact us during the day in the form of low concentration and bad memory, which can have a negative impact on performance and work. It can also affect the relationship between yourself and the people in your household. For example, a patient’s illness may disrupt other family members’ sleep due to loud snoring. This frequently leads to sleeping in separate rooms or even ‘banishing’ the patient to the far corner of the house. We want to help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need for this condition by utilising the knowledge of our sleep disorder specialists and the highest quality equipment.”
Conditions related to sleep apnoea
- Periodic limb movement disorder
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Cornorony heart disease and heart attacks
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
- Cardiac arrhythmia (palpitations)
Book your consultation
To arrange a telephone, video or face-to-face consultation with our accredited sleep physician, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.