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World Sleep Day - 15th March 2024

World Sleep Day is 15th March 2024.  The key message for this year is ‘sleep is essential for health’.  We caught up with our Respiratory Diagnostics team (sleep team are pictured above) who run a specialised sleep clinic which helps to diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).   This is one of over 80 sleep disorders and is characterized by a closing or narrowing of the airway during sleep (an apnoea). Symptoms of OSA include waking unrefreshed, excessive, daytime sleepiness, snore and witnessed apnoea by a bed partner. 
What is sleep and why is it important?
Sleep is a dynamic activity.  Until the 1950’s, sleep was thought to be dormant. We now know our brains are active during sleep.
During sleep processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.  You solidify memories, restore and rejuvenate and grow muscle, repair tissue and synthesize hormones.
What are the basics we can all do to improve our own sleep e.g. sleep hygiene?
Sleep Hygiene refers to your environment and behaviour and practicing good sleep hygiene will help you get a good night’s sleep. Sleep hygiene is different for everyone and it is about finding out what works for you. Some good places to start:
Creating the right environment
Remove any distractions from your bedroom. This includes electrical devices. Ensure the room is a comfortable temperature and you have bedding that suits you in terms of weight and material. It can help to block out light and some people find calming scents such as lavender can help relaxation.
Prioritise 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind. Unplug from electricals and explore relaxation techniques, finding out what works for you. This could be meditation, listening to gentle music. Dim the lights.
Be consistent
Develop a set pre bedtime routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night.
Good daily habits to help with a good nights sleep include:
•  Get Daylight Exposure.  Light is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep.
•  Be Physically Active.  Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night and also delivers a host of other health benefits.
•  Don’t Smoke.  Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep, which helps explain why smoking is correlated with numerous sleeping. 
•  Reduce Alcohol Consumption.  Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but the effect wears off, disrupting sleep later in the night. As a result, it’s best to moderate alcohol  consumption and avoid it later in the evening.
•  Cut Down on Caffeine in the Afternoon and Evening.  Because it’s a stimulant, it can keep you wired even when you want to rest, so try to avoid it later in the day. Also be aware if  you’re consuming lots of caffeine to try to make up for lack of sleep.
•  Don’t Dine Late.  Eating dinner late, especially if it’s a big, heavy, or spicy meal, can mean you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side.
•  Restrict In-Bed Activity.  To build a link in your mind between sleep and being in bed, it’s best to only use your bed for sleep with sex being the one exception.
What are sleep disorders?
There are over eighty sleep disorders which have been placed into six categories.  These include insomnia, sleep breathing disorders, central disorder of hypersomnolence, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, parasomnias and sleep related movement disorders.  It is sleep breathing disorders which we focus on at LHCH.
What are the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?
Snoring, apnoeas and daytime sleepiness.  Patients often describe morning headaches, irritability, poor concentration, restless sleep, choking or gasping for air.
What is the size of the problem?
The true incidence of OSA is unknown.  It is estimated around 1.5 million people in the UK have OSA yet 85% are undiagnosed.  As incidences of obesity rises, sleep apnoea will become an increasing problem. Sleep Apnoea is often weight related and the number of times the airway closes or narrows can increase with weight gain and reduce with weight loss.
How do you diagnose it?

You diagnose this through a sleep study. There are a range of studies/equipment available from simple oximetry to full inpatient PSG. LHCH offer a respiratory sleep study which measures airflow, oxygen saturations, pulse, effort and snore. This test is carried out at home.
What is the treatment?
Use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is a common treatment, The machine delivers room air at varying pressures to your airway via a tube and mask. Breathing in room air at a higher pressure than normal keeps your airway open while you sleep. Most devices will monitor your airway and adjust the pressure as your airway patency changes through the night, This ensures the device is comfortable to use.  Losing weight can also often ease symptoms. 
What would your advice be to anyone struggling out there who thinks they may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?
Go and see your GP.  Explain your symptoms and ask for a referral for a sleep study.  If diagnosed and treated your quality of life will change for the better considerably.