The aim of Better Sleep Month is to encourage people to establish better sleeping patterns. Refreshing sleep is of huge importance when staying healthy from a  physical, emotional and mental health perspective.Factors which disrupt sleep include excitement, depression, anxiety and caffeine intake close to bed time while environmental factors include, room temperature, light levels, humidity, bedding and noise.

Inadequate sleep can lead to an increase in blood pressure and can increase stress levels on the body. The consequences of poor sleep include reduced concentration, mood swings, irritability, stress and a weakened immune system. In severe cases, poor sleep may be linked to serious problems including narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea.

In Ireland there are approximately 6,500/7,500 patients diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). However, respiratory specialists here believe that up to 90% of Sleep Apnoea in adults and children goes undiagnosed. Sleep Apnoea is defined as ‘the cessation of airflow during sleep, preventing air from entering the lungs which is caused by an obstruction’.

How do you know if you have Sleep Apnoea? 

People with Sleep Apnoea may complain of excessive daytime sleepiness often with irritability or restlessness. But it is normally the bed partner, family or friends, who notice the symptoms first. Sufferers of OSA may experience some of the following:
• Extremely loud heavy snoring, often interrupted by pauses and gasps
• Excessive daytime sleepiness, e.g. falling asleep at work; whilst driving; watching TV or during conversation
• Irritability, short temper
• Morning headaches
• Forgetfulness
• Changes in mood or behaviour
• Anxiety or depression
• Decreased interest in sex

Remember, not everyone who has these symptoms will necessarily have Sleep Apnoea. We possibly all suffer from these symptoms from time to time but people with Sleep Apnoea demonstrate some or all of these symptoms all the time.

Sleep Apnoea is a very serious medical condition. For those suffering with Sleep Apnoea, the continual lack of quality sleep can affect your life in many ways, including; depression, irritability, loss of memory, lack of energy, a high risk of auto / workplace accidents, and many other problems. Sleep Apnoea sufferers tend to have high blood pressure and sufferers are at higher risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from Sleep Apnoea please consult your GP who can refer you to a Sleep Specialist at Aut Even Hospital

Dr John Faul, Respiratory Physician