Sleep apnoea: More than just a snore
175 million people in Europe are thought to suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea – a sleep disorder characterised by involuntary and repeated cessations of breathing. They are the result of the tongue or soft tissue in the throat collapsing during sleep and blocking the airway. This can happen many times during the night (sometimes hundreds) and each stoppage can last up to a minute. The result: interrupted, poor-quality sleep.
While loud snoring is indeed a major symptom of sleep apnoea – which might make it difficult for bed-partners to sleep – the consequences for the sleeper are much more significant. Often, the only clue that one even suffers from the condition is waking up with a headache or experiencing persistent daytime fatigue. If left untreated, in addition to an increased risk of the chronic conditions previously mentioned, sleep apnoea will affect many aspects of attention, cognition and mood. And this, in turn, can have damning consequences on everything from working performance, driving performance and social interactions.
But it’s not all a nightmare scenario: “Treatment options do exist and can be extremely effective – provided the patient is willing to adhere to the therapy,” says Walid Gharbi, who manages the digital transformation for Linde ́s Homecare division, EMEA. And therein lies the problem; to which Linde has found a promising solution.
Unmasking the problem: Patient activation
While an oral appliance (like a sports mouth guard) is the first line treatment for mild to moderate apnoea, the most popular therapeutic intervention for more severe cases is the use of a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. This works by supplying a constant pressurised air flow to the sleeper’s throat thus preventing airway blockage. However, it does so via a mask that must be worn during sleep. “The mask can be pretty hard to get used to,” explains Gharbi, so much so that it is often the reason that patients don’t adhere strictly to the therapy plan and therefore don’t reap the full benefit.