Is The World Waking Up To Sleep?

Wednesday 25th April 2018

Adam Sullivan CEO Baywater Healthcare

It seems the world is waking up to the importance of a good night’s sleep. For years we were all brought up to believe the importance of needing eight hours a night was the magic number to allow us to function optimally on a day to day basis. In the eighties, it then became fashionable to operate on as little sleep as possible, probably instigated by the fact that the Iron Lady herself ran the country on four hours sleep every night. I remember overnight business meetings in hotel’s where nobody wanted the stigma of being the first to retire for the evening; it was all about who could stay up until sunrise and still be ready for a 9am start!

The recent introduction of wrist wearables which track exercise and sleep pattern has created a healthy obsession in what happens when we sleep and importantly what people can do to improve their chances of a restful night. Top tips include:

  • Power down the blue light – do not use your smartphone or tablet in bed and keep it away from your bedside table overnight.
  • Wind down – take a warm bath, relaxation exercise such as yoga or listen to soothing music.
  • Have a regular sleep routine – most of us need six to nine hours sleep a night. Work backwards from your wake-up time to determine when you need to go to bed.

There are hundreds of thousands of people out there with a condition which has potentially serious consequences for their long-term health, yet they don’t know it. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is generally referred to as a middle-aged man’s disease, affecting overweight people with a thickset neck. Often banished to the spare room for keeping their partner awake with their deafening snoring. Having recently shared a room with a snorer on a sporting trip, I can only sympathise. Snoring, however, isn’t a laughing matter and it’s certainly not restricted to men, there is now clear evidence that there are more serious consequences for long-term physical and mental health if it is not properly treated.

Sleep deprivation is not like a normal physical illness; there are no obvious visible signs or acute pain one would associate with a health issue. We all feel tired from time to time, and most recover quickly through rest and relaxation. There are those however who can’t sleep for extended stretches.

In many cases, the root cause lies in the softening of the palate at the back of the throat which restricts airflow to the lungs. When the airway blocks it causes the individual to wake, often several times a night which has debilitating effects the following day, resulting in extreme uncontrolled sleepiness. The hazards associated with driving and operating machinery are obvious, it is believed that sleepiness plays a part in one in five road accidents and someone with OSA is 12 times more likely to be involved in a road accident. Long distance truck drivers generally lead a sedentary lifestyle compared to most, spending hours sat behind the wheel. Many of us will have experienced driving fatigue, but if you’re suffering from an underlying sleep disorder, the risk of falling asleep on the motorway increases significantly.

OSA can lead to more serious health complications such as an increased risk of stroke or heart attack and high blood pressure. It can be treated, however, once diagnosed often the best all-round solution is to embark on significant lifestyle changes such as weight loss and moderating alcohol intake. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) which supplies low pressure compressed air via a mask keeping the airway open while sleeping. Many users have reported a significant improvement in lifestyle quality once established on this therapy.

If you have a problem sleeping and if it affects your ability to carry out your daily tasks effectively, consult your GP.

Reference NHS Choices