How Sleep Disorders May Be Affecting You In Australia
One out of every five people in Australia is affected by some type of sleep disorder. Sleep disorders are a type of condition that has the ability to alter how you sleep. Sleep disorders can have a negative impact on your life. There are many different types of sleep disorders. Common general symptoms can include feeling sleepy during the daytime hours, difficulties with your natural sleep cycles, difficulty breathing, sleeping at unusual hours and finding difficulty with getting to sleep. According to the Parliament of Australia, sleep disorders can possibly also lead to health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health disorders.
Types of sleeping disorders
Let us discuss some of the most common types of sleep disorders that commonly affect Australians. Obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm sleep disorders and central disorders of hyper-somnolence are listed by the Parliament of Australia as the most common sleep disorders found in Australia.
A full five percent of adults in Australia are affected by severe sleep apnea. Twenty percent are affected by mild to moderate sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects breathing while asleep.
Apnea is defined as the absence of breath. Specifically, there are repeated instances where breathing becomes restricted while sleeping because the airway collapses during sleep and either creates less airflow or in extreme instances blocks the airway altogether. Symptoms can include snoring, feeling sleepy during the daytime and disruption in sleep.
Treatment for sleep apnea depends on the individual and the severity of symptoms. CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is the most common treatment for Australians. A CPAP machine functions by blowing air into the throat using a mask that connects to the CPAP machine which is attached to a hollow tube. The machine pushes air through the tube and into the mask and serves to prevent narrowing in the throat by an increase in air pressure. Some machines include a humidifier as this method of treatment has the side effect of drying out the nose, mouth, and throat. Another sleep apnea treatment is the use of oral appliances called Mandibular Advancement Devices. They are typically used for mild to moderate sleep apnea but can be used in more severe cases where the patient cannot tolerate using a CPAP. Risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight and other physiological and age-related factors.
Another common sleep disorder experienced by Australians is insomnia. Insomnia is when difficulty sleeping is more than just an occasional experience. When the lack of sleep is chronic, ongoing and begins to affect a person’s day to day performance they are considered to have insomnia. If insomnia lasts for under three months it is considered episodic. It is often linked to stressful life events that have made it difficult to sleep. If the symptoms last beyond three months the insomnia is considered to be chronic. There are several causes of insomnia including both anatomical and behavioral reasons. Treatment can include behavioral interventions and medication.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Another common sleep disorder according to the Parliament of Australia is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). The main feature of RLS is the uncontrollable desire to move one’s legs. At nighttime symptoms tend to worsen. When one is trying to fall asleep RLS symptoms are particularly bad. RLS symptoms tend to be difficult to predict. There are various medications that are helpful for controlling RLS symptoms.
Certain sleep disorders, which are commonly experienced by Australians who work in shifts that vary hours throughout the day and night, are known as Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders. Shift workers may have varying waking and sleeping hours which can lead to sleepiness and insomnia. A particular form of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders is known as Non 24 Hour Sleep Wake Disorder is when a person’s internal biological clock does not align with normal sleep and wake cycles. Visual impairment is a risk factor for this type of disorder.
Neurological sleep disorders
Another common category of neurological sleep disorders in Australia is Central Disorders of Hypersomnolence. These include forms of narcolepsy, a disorder when a person suddenly falls asleep at any given moment and idiopathic hypersomnia, an need to sleep excessively, usually for more than 12 hours each day. Hypocretin, a brain chemical that serves to regulate sleep, is thought to be destroyed by an autoimmune response in persons with narcolepsy. According to The Royal Australasian College of Physicians obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia are the most common sleep disorders affecting people in Australia.