Is your snoring a clue to a bigger health problem?

If you are known to snore loudly, then it could be more than simply a source of irritation for your partner - it could actually be a sign that you’re suffering from a serious medical problem. Snoring is one of the most obvious symptoms of sleep apnoea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep as your airways become obstructed – and one that an estimated 24% of men suffer from1. Sleep apnoea itself can be fatal, but can also lead to further health issues. For example, a study this week found that people with sleep apnoea were 58% more likely to develop heart disease2. Worryingly, it is thought that 90% of those with sleep apnoea have not been diagnosed. The good news? Once you have been diagnosed, almost every case can be treated through therapy. Two of the main symptoms of sleep apnoea are snoring and tiredness during the day. If either or both of these symptoms sound familiar to you, either through yourself or a partner, it may be worth reading on.

Symptoms

According to the NHS3, the symptoms of Sleep Apnoea include:

  1. feeling very sleepy during the day
  2. waking up with a sore or dry throat
  3. poor memory and concentration
  4. headaches (particularly in the morning)
  5. irritability and a short temper
  6. anxiety
  7. depression
  8. lack of interest in sex
  9. in men, impotence (inability to get or maintain an erection)

Additional symptoms include snoring, non-refreshed sleep, restless sleep, gasping or choking during the night, reduced ability to handle stress, frequent toilet visits during the night and high blood pressure4.

What can contribute?

  1. Increasing age
  2. Being overweight *
  3. Being male
  4. Small lower jaw
  5. Large collar size *
  6. Existing diabetic *
  7. Smoking
  8. Alcohol
  9. Use of sedatives

* - key risks4

What it means for you

The effects of sleep apnoea are wide ranging. As well as the tiredness and increased risk of heart disease, as mentioned above, it also leads to a lack of concentration, higher risk of accidents at work and while driving, anxiety, short temper, as well as leading to problems in your personal life due to depression, irritability and a lack of sex drive.

What can I do about it?

If you think you may have sleep apnoea, there are three main routes to follow – either getting diagnosed and treated by the NHS, privately, or at home. It all depends on how long you are prepared to wait, and on the expense.

You can be diagnosed and treated for sleep apnoea by the NHS. While this is free, the time frame can be quite drawn out. In June this year there were 4,461 people on the NHS waiting list for a Sleep Study, 16% of which had been waiting for over a month already5. Once you actually receive a Sleep Study, you then have to wait for your results, a consultation, and then there is another waiting list to actually get the equipment you need. It is not uncommon for the process to take several months from seeing your doctor initially to being given your CPAP equipment. Please be aware that once you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea, you will not be able to drive until you are shown as being compliant with your therapy. Failing to report a diagnosis to the DVLA can result in a £1,000 fine. Therefore if you drive, the waiting time between getting diagnosed and getting treatment on the NHS can simply be too long, so you may want to consider one of the other, much faster, alternatives.
Alternatively, you can go to a private sleep clinic. There they will assess you, give you a sleep study, and provide you with the appropriate equipment. Prices vary from clinic to clinic, but expect to pay between £1,000 to £2,000 for everything. The difference in waiting time is stark – it is often less than a month from consultation to therapy. The price may put people off, but it is a considerably faster yet more comprehensive solution. For those looking for a similar level of speed but with a much lower cost, then the third option may be the solution.
Your third choice is to simply rent a Sleep Study for use at home. You can rent one for as little as £99, and you get the results within a fortnight, and often within a week. With those results you can then go to the NHS to join the equipment waiting list, or you can order the equipment online and begin your therapy almost immediately. With machines starting at £450 and masks at £54, the whole process costs as little as £600 and you can be getting therapy within three weeks. There is not the same level of consultation or advice as you would get from a Sleep Clinic, but if you’re prepared to do your own research and use your initiative, it can be a much better value alternative.

Stop snoring, start sleeping, start living

Whichever path you choose, you will be well on your way to improved health and wellbeing, it’s just a question of time frame and expense.If you need any further information about sleep apnoea, sleep studies or CPAP, feel free to browse our website, cpap.co.uk for more articles and advice, or browse our forums at forums.cpap.co.uk, where you will be able to ask any questions you want and get advice from those currently undergoing therapy.

Whatever you do, if you have any of the symptoms of sleep apnoea, we strongly recommend that you get tested, as the effects of untreated sleep apnoea can be very serious. The important thing to remember is that diagnosis and treatment can be very quick and incredibly effective, so you could be enjoying a better quality of life within a month.


References: 1 - http://topnews.co.uk/28799-sleep-apnea-increases-risk-heart-disease-or-death

2 - http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/13/sleep-apnea-linked-to-heart-disease-risk/

3 - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sleep-apnoea/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

4 - http://www.sleep-study.co.uk

5 - http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/@sta/@perf/documents/digitalasset/dh_118346.xls accessed via http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Statistics/Performancedataandstatistics/HospitalWaitingTimesandListStatistics/Diagnostics/index.htm

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