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Spotting the signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function effectively – although some need more and some less. So, what happens when a medical condition stops you from getting good-quality sleep?

When we sleep, our throat muscles relax and air flows freely to our lungs. If you have a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), your throat closes completely and the flow of air stops, so you stop breathing for a short time. This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain health conditions.

 Symptoms of OSA include:

  • breathing stopping and starting
  • making gasping, snorting, or choking noises
  • waking up a lot
  • loud snoring

Photo of sleep apnoea team Our Sleep Apnoea team (left) includes doctors, specialist nurses, administrators, respiratory physiologists, and technicians who care for people with OSA.

Aura Ursu, Sleep Apnoea Specialist Nurse, (pictured second from left) has worked at our Trust for two and half years. She wants medical professionals and the public to be aware of the signs of OSA and its risks.  

It can be difficult to know if you have these symptoms while sleeping, so your partner or family members might notice signs before you do. Aura advises: “If your partner tells you that you snore regularly, or you hold your breath while you’re sleeping, please speak to your GP. 

​During the day, someone with OSA may feel very tired, find it hard to concentrate, or have mood swings. Aura said: “If you’re having eight to nine hours of sleep a night, yet you wake up feeling tired, then that shouldn’t be happening. People with OSA are not resting but fighting to breathe during the night, so they feel tired during the day.”

Left untreated, OSA can carry significant health risks. OSA can put you at a higher risk of conditions high blood pressure, type two diabetes, heart conditions, Parkinson’s, dementia, depression, some cancers, and stroke.

During Covid, new referrals to the team were paused, however support was provided for patients already receiving treatment. The nurses were redeployed, particularly to train others on using CPAP machines, a common piece of equipment used in the treatment of OSA which are also used in treating some Covid patients. 

To catch up following Covid, the team increased capacity by 15 to 20% to address the backlog. 

Our Sleep Apnoea team cares for around 4,000 patients each year, and nationally OSA affects ten to 13 per cent of men and four per cent of women.

If you think you may have OSA, please visit the NHS website for more informaton and speak to your GP. 

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