Snoring is a sleep disorder that often creates quite a few problems even for those who sleep next to us.
In many cases, however, snoring is a symptom of a more serious condition, the so-called obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS).
This is a condition characterised by repeated episodes of upper airway obstruction during sleep: these apnoeas involve continuous, brief and unconscious micro-awakenings and are associated with a dangerous reduction in the concentration of oxygen in the blood.
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Why sleep apnoea is dangerous
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is a respiratory disorder characterised by complete (apnoea) or partial (hypopnoea) obstruction of the upper airways with reduced arterial oxygen saturation values.
The sufferer has an increased risk of developing:
- arterial hypertension;
- heart attack;
- cerebral stroke;
But that’s not all: those who suffer from it have also been found to have a constant sense of fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness, which, in turn, exposes them to an increased risk of being involved in work and road accidents.
By identifying it early, however, it can be treated with the right therapy, reducing the risk of related illnesses and improving quality of life.
The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea:
The most common symptoms attributable to sleep apnoea syndrome are of 2 types:
- nocturnal, which include:
pauses in breathing;
sleep fragmented by frequent awakenings;
awakenings with a feeling of suffocation;
nocturia (the need to urinate during the night);
tiredness on waking;
poor concentration with memory deficits;
excessive daytime sleepiness.
It is not always easy to diagnose because, in some cases, it manifests itself asymptomatically or its symptoms are not recognised.
The first thing to look out for, inevitably with the help of a family member, is snoring: if it occurs habitually, persistently or you notice breathing pauses, you may be suffering from OSAS.
The best way to discover and treat this problem is to perform a thorough evaluation by a medical expert in sleep medicine (pulmonologist), who will check the indication to perform a polysomnography (PSG), or sleep study, the gold standard for diagnosing this disorder.
This is a test performed under the guidance of an experienced sleep professional, at home while the patient is asleep and records
- blood oxygen levels;
- heart rate;
- body movements.
Sleep apnoea, how PAP therapy works
With PAP therapy, a mask is worn during sleep.
The ventilator gently blows pressurised room air into the upper airway through a tube connected to the mask.
This positive airflow helps to keep the airways pervious, preventing the collapse that occurs during apnoea, thus allowing normal breathing.
For PAP therapy to be effective, however, it must be used every time one goes to sleep, including afternoon naps.