DIfficulty Sleeping

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Do you ever have difficulty Sleeping?  In the current situation with concerns about COVID-19 and lockdown and social isolation, many people are experiencing difficulties sleeping.
Sleep Disorders are more common than most people realize. Sleep disorders may involve problems sleeping or, less frequently, excessive sleep.  Such problems may represent:  a primary sleep disorder, the cause of psychological problems, a feature of a mental illness, or could be confused for a psychological disorder.

Sleep is absolutely essential for normal, healthy function. Scientists and medical professionals do not fully understand this complicated, necessary, physiological phenomenon. They do know that sleep is an important time for the body to recover and repair the system.

There are more than 70 different sleep disorders that are generally classified into one of three categories -

  • Lack of sleep (insomnia).
  • Disturbed sleep (obstructive sleep apnoea).
  • Excessive sleep (narcolepsy).

In most cases, sleep disorders can be easily managed once they are properly diagnosed. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It occurs more often in women and in the elderly.

The amount of sleep that a person needs to function normally depends on several factors such as age and physical activity. Infants sleep most of the day, teenagers usually need about nine hours a day, and adults need an average of seven or eight hours a day. Although elderly adults require about as much sleep as young adults, they usually sleep for shorter periods and spend less time in deep stages of sleep. About half of adults over the age of 75 have some type of sleep disorder, although it is not clear whether this is a normal part of ageing or a result of medications that older people commonly use.

Sleep Apnoea
Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder. It is more likely to occur in women than men. It is also more common in people who are overweight or obese.

OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) is a common form of sleep apnoea.  The soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes blocking the passage of air.

CSA (Central Sleep Apnoea) is caused by irregularities in the signals from the brain telling the body to breath. 

Most people with sleep apnoea will have a combination of CSA and OSA.  

A person with sleep apnoea may experience some of the following symptoms. It is unlikely that all of the symptoms will be present in one person, but if there are a few of these symptoms, the person should seek medical advice. 

  • Interruptions in their breathing when they are asleep. This may last only a few seconds or longer. But they can occur repeatedly throughout the night.
  • The person may struggle to be breathe.
  • They may not be aware of the problems when they wake up.
  • Excessive sleepiness during the day, even falling asleep during the day.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Behaviour changes.
  • Mood changes.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Headaches in the morning.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Irritability.
  • Snoring loudly, then periods of silence and gasps.

How is sleep apnoea treated?
The treatment depends on how severe the problem is and also the person’s individual medical history.  Treatments usually start with trying to change the person’s lifestyle, such as –

  • Losing weight.
  • Avoiding alcohol.
  • Avoiding medication that relaxes the central nervous system, such as sedatives, muscle relaxants.
  • Stopping smoking

Some people will use special pillows or devices that prevent them from sleeping on their backs, which can make this condition work. Others may use appliances in their mouth to keep their airway open during sleep.

If these do not work, there are other treatments that can be applied.

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