Sleep apnoea: When is snoring a sign of the disruptive sleep disorder? Key symptoms

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Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep and the most common type is called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This type of apnoea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. One of the most noticeable signs of OSA is snoring.

As Mayo Clinic points out, many people may not think of snoring as a sign of something potentially serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.

“Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring, especially snoring that’s punctuated by periods of silence,” says the health body.

As it explains, with obstructive sleep apnea, snoring usually is loudest when you sleep on your back, and it quietens when you turn on your side.

The symptoms of OSA do not just surface when you’re sleeping, however.

There are a host of symptoms that can show up during the day, according to the NHS.

These include:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Having mood swings
  • Having a headache when you wake up.

How to identify OSA

As the NHS points out, it can be hard to tell if you are suffering from the sleep disturbance.

“It may help to ask someone to stay with you while you sleep so they can check for the symptoms,” advises the health body.

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How to treat OSA

OSA is a long-term condition and you may need lifelong treatment to control the symptoms.

There are effective treatments and changes you can make to improve your wellbeing.

According to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), you can help to manage the symptoms of OSA yourself by making some changes to the way you live.

“Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, maintaining a healthy weight and having good bedtime habits can make a big difference. If you smoke, try to quit,” explains the BLF.

According to the health body, good sleeping habits and sleep patterns are important to feeling well and happy, and are a supplement to other sleep treatments.

If you are struggling to nod off at night, an essential tip is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

“Though this might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked, contributing to difficulties getting to sleep and sleeping through the night,” explains the NSF.

Taking control of your daily sleep schedule by setting a fixed wake-up time, can also help, it adds.

If your OSA symptoms persist, more invasive procedures may be necessary.

Surgery may sometimes be an option – if you are severely obese (with a BMI over 40), an operation to help you lose weight, called bariatric surgery, can be very effective, according to the BLF.

There are very few randomised control trials to support other kinds of surgery, warns the health body.

“Operations might be helpful in a very small number of cases, such as for people with enlarged tonsils, adenoids and nasal polyps,” it explains.

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