The importance of a good night’s sleep goes beyond banishing under-eye circles. During sleep, our bodies are hard at work, restoring, rebalancing and boosting our disease-fighting powers.
What happens to our bodies when we don’t sleep?
Some common indicators of poor sleep are mood swings, day time drowsiness and brain fog. These symptoms are signs of more serious negative health effects that are happening to your body. Other effects of poor sleep include:
- increased release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lead to brain cell death;
- increased blood pressure and heart disease risk;
- increased insulin release, leading to decreased ability to breakdown fat and increased hunger;
- constipation, stomach ulcers, digestive impairment;
- decreased release of growth hormone and thyroid hormones, leading to accelerated aging and poor brain restoration;
- increased risk of depression;
- decreased immunity and the reduced ability to defend yourself against infections.
General Insomnia vs Sleep Apnoea
General insomnia is characterised by difficulty falling or staying asleep. Common symptoms include feeling tired and groggy upon waking, waking up too early in the morning, or waking frequently throughout the night and having trouble falling back asleep. You may feel sleepy during the day and easily become irritable. Insomnia can be acute or chronic, and there are many factors that may cause insomnia, they include:
- emotional or psychological stress, worry, and/or anxiety associated with significant life events, such as job loss/change, death of loved one, or divorce;
- elevated levels of circulating stress hormones, impacting and ‘revving up’ your adrenal glands;
- too warm room and/or environmental temperature;
- bright sleeping quarters and exposure to TV/cell phone screens prior to sleep;
- exercising too late;
- drinking alcohol before bed; and
- caffeine and nicotine late in the evenings.
It’s best to practice proper ‘sleep hygiene’ and get yourself into a bedtime routine. This includes turning off technology 60 minutes before bed, sleeping in complete darkness, keeping a cool room temperature, and avoiding the use of loud alarm clocks.
Sleep apnoea is more serious than just night-time snoring (but that’s one of the signs). Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) occurs when the walls or muscles of the upper airway relax or collapse in such a way that they block the airway during sleeping, reducing oxygen intake and creating the snoring partners often complain about! This interruption in air supply is called an “apnoea” and can last up to a minute or more.
Why is this so harmful? A lack of oxygen signals the brain to wake up briefly to shock the cardiovascular system in order to clear the airway and restart breathing. This can happen hundreds of times per night, without having any conscious awareness of these episodes. An individual may not remember the frequent patterns of waking but the body certainly does, and it is only a matter of time before negative health consequences arise.
The risk factors of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are:
- excess weight;
- naturally narrow airways;
- high blood pressure;
- chronic nasal congestion;
- asthma; and
- family history of sleep apnoea.
If you are concerned you may have OSA take this online assessment which will only take a couple of minutes.
OSA is a treatable medical condition. Once you have been diagnosed, there is a range of effective treatment options available. These options for OSA designed to increase the amount of oxygen that you breathe while you sleep.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
A CPAP machine is considered the most effective treatment option. It delivers positive airway pressure through a mask you wear while you sleep, preventing your airway from closing and relieving your symptoms immediately.
- Dental Applications
Oral applications such as Mandibular Repositioning Devices (MRD) are another treatment for OSA. The device supports your jaw in a forward position and can help prevent your tongue and the soft tissue in your mouth from blocking your airways while you sleep and keeps them open throughout the night.
An uncommon treatment but is available in certain circumstances to increase the size of the upper airway. It is viewed as a last resort and used for those with severe OSA or those who are not responding to other treatment options.
At the Elevate Sleep Clinic we have sleep technicians and specialists who can test and diagnose your sleep condition and ensure that you receive the most effective treatment plan to suit your individual needs, as well as advise you on lifestyle and sleep hygiene methods to support your treatment.