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Woman using CPAP machine

A lens on sleep apnoea

Ahead of World Sleep Day on March 13, we take a look at the risk factors associated with sleep apnoea.

According to the 5th annual Philip sleep survey titled “Wake Up Call: Global Sleep Satisfaction Trends”, which surveyed more than 13,000 adults in 13 countries to capture attitudes, sleep apnoea and the importance of Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is not well understood – even among those who have the condition.

Risk factors for sleep apnoea

Even when aided, people are not able to consistently identify risk factors for obstructive sleep apnoea. The risk factor most often identified is being overweight/obese, but still only about half select it (including 51 per cent of those who have sleep apnoea, 47 per cent of those who do not have sleep apnoea).

The survey identified that a substantial portion of people with sleep apnoea (30 per cent) somewhat or completely agree that they do not think it is necessary to be treated for sleep apnoea. Meanwhile, 39 per cent of those with sleep apnoea somewhat or completely agree treatment for sleep apnoea is worse than the disease itself and nearly half of the people who have sleep apnoea have never been prescribed CPAP therapy (48 per cent).

Sleep trends

Overall, the survey highlighted that in 2020, people are significantly less likely to be actively doing something to improve their sleep compared to results from the Philips’ 2019 World Sleep Day Report.

While watching TV (2019: 37 per cent vs. 2020: 33 per cent – the most common strategy people currently use to improve their sleep) is used by fewer people now compared to 2019, the decline in use is most notable for reading, listening to soothing music, using sunrise alarm clock and meditation.

“The decrease in people taking action to improve sleep is alarming, especially when it is clear people around the world deeply value sleep. Sleep deficit impacts people both mentally and physically, so we need to educate people on available sleep resources and empower them with the confidence that their efforts will pay off,” said Mark Aloia, PhD, Global Lead for Behavior Change, Sleep & Respiratory Care at Philips.

Side effects

According to the National Sleep Foundation, obstructive sleep apnoea can occur when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

There have been a number of studies highlighting that there is growing evidence that the condition affects glucose metabolism and promotes insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. However, studies also found that treating sleep apnoea might actually improve glycaemic control and long-term complications from diabetes.

Moreover, the connection between sleep apnoea and heart disease has also been evolving rapidly. Sleep apnoea has been linked with heart arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes, most likely because it is associated with high blood pressure. Whether sleep apnoea actually causes heart disease is still unclear, however, it does increase the chance of developing hypertension in the future significantly.

A study in the journal of the American Heart Association discovered that moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can cause changes in the heart’s shape and function, similar to the effects of hypertension. But six months after CPAP treatment, the abnormalities returned to near-normal measurements in patients.

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