Do you ever wonder what the point of sleeping is? For some people it takes up half their lives. So much time that could be used to learn another language, a musical instrument or secretly binge on your favourite TV series from Game of Thrones to – well whatever takes your fancy.
But it turns out that that ‘time wasted’ isn’t so wasteful after all. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep there are plenty of things that can start to go wrong and this is especially the case for people who have sleep apnoea.
Often people don’t even realise they have sleep apnoea, they just think they snore – and probably think they snore less than they really do. But in reality their breathing pauses or stops before the body wakes them up and they start breathing again – potentially hundreds of times a night. This can lead to people feeling tired and exhausted.
Loss of libido
Left untreated sleep apnoea can lead to long term health consequences from depression and memory loss to heart and liver problems. It can even lead to the loss of interest in sex among other complications including irregular heart beat and diabetes. That’s right it can mean that both men and women lose interest and not longer have the energy to ‘get it on’.
More than one million Australians suffer from the debilitating disease of sleep apnoea and approximately nine per cent of adults in Australia have it with the risk increasing with age and if you are male. It is estimated that around one in four men over the age of 30 have some degree of sleep apnoea according to Victoria Health.
Lifestyle changes are often the least invasive treatments and start with weight loss and the reduction of the consumption of alcohol before heading into more invasive treatments for more severe levels of sleep apnoea.
One of the most effective treatments is the use of a mask at night that stops the throat from collapsing. This is called the nasal continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) or nasal CPAP.
An alternative is the use of a specialist mouthguard (or oral appliance or mandibular advancement splint) that holds the jaw forward during sleep. CSIRO have recently brought a new treatment to market that adds a valve into a mouthguard to naturally increase airflow and reduce snoring. The valve is called the ExVent and it according to CSRIO it nearly doubles the success rates of traditional mouthguards for sleep apnoea sufferers.
The unexpected discovery was made early in the three-year collaboration between CSIRO, Brisbane medical devices company Oventus Medical, RMIT and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).
Oventus founder and CEO Dr Chris Hart said that, ‘the results for the new ExVent valve match Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment success rates for more than 75 per cent of patients’.
‘This is the first time an oral treatment with a pressure valve to stabilise breathing has been incorporated into sleep apnoea treatment devices,’ he said.
‘Nasal obstruction and breathing through their mouths was one of the main reasons treatment failed when patients used CPAP and this is what we targeted in our first device, the titanium O2Vent.
‘This breakthrough turns mouth breathing from villain to hero,’ Dr Hart said.
Removal of tonsils and adenoids and surgery to the palate and base of tongue may be useful when other therapies fail, however, these treatments are not always effective.
If you are always feeling tired, have a partner that snores like a banshee or who you notice stops breathing while they sleep it might be time to head to doctors to get an assessment of your sleeping patterns. The doctor can recommend a sleep study that will determine if you have sleep apnoea and its level of severity. It could be the first step in a well deserved good nights sleep for everyone.