Over 20% Of People Have This ‘Dangerous’ Sleep Disorder

Women are at higher risk of going undiagnosed, and only 3.5% of sufferers are treated for it.
Close-up of a woman lying fast asleep in her bed.
Mavocado via Getty Images
Close-up of a woman lying fast asleep in her bed.

Have you been having recurring sleep problems such as breathing stopping and starting, waking up a lot and even gasping or snorting in your sleep? Maybe your partner has complained about your particularly loud snoring?

You might be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

A new study in France and published in ERJ Open Research has found that one in five (just over 20%) people suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

The disorder, which can lead to more serious health problems like high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease and mental health problems can be difficult to diagnose which perhaps is why the study also found that only 3.5% of the participants who did have sleep apnoea were actually diagnosed and treated for it.

Women Are At A Higher Risk Of Not Being Diagnosed

The study found that OSA is more common among men, older people, smokers, people with depression, cardiovascular disease, and those from a lower socioeconomic background. However, women are at a higher risk of going undiagnosed with the disorder.

This study comes following the news that uncontrolled obstructive sleep apnoea can lead to future damage in the brain.

There are treatments available such as CPAP machine – which gently pumps air into a mask worn over the mouth or nose to help regulate breathing, a gum shield-like devices which holds airwaves open while you sleep and even surgery to remove large tonsils but with such low diagnosis rates, many people are going without effective treatment and are at risk of future health complications.

What To Do If You Think You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

The NHS advises that if you experience the following symptoms, you speak to your GP:

  • Breathing stopping and starting
  • Making gasping, snorting or choking noises in your sleep
  • Waking up a lot
  • Loud snoring
  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches when you wake up

The NHS also advises that you can potentially help yourself with the condition by doing the following:

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Have good sleep habits like a dark, quiet bedroom and maintaining the same sleep pattern
  • Sleep on your side – they suggest that sufferers “try taping a tennis ball to the back of your sleepwear, or buy a special pillow or bed wedge to help keep you on your side”