Sleep Apnoea

The provision of sleep aponea services through community pharmacies across Australia is a growing area for the sector which is benefitting patients who suffer from this condition.

Sleep disorders are quite prevalent in Australia and a study estimated that in 2010 there were some 1.5 million Australians – or 8.9 per cent of the population – living with these sleep disorders. High among these disorders is sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking the airways above the voice box.

The latest statistics indicate about 25 per cent of men over the age of 30 years have some degree of sleep apnoea, which makes it more common than asthma.

Conservative treatment includes weight loss and cutting back on alcohol and pharmacists providing sleep aponea services often undertake specialised training to ensure the best outcomes for patients.

Daytime sleepiness may distinguish simple snorers from people with sleep apnoea.

Being overweight or obese is one of the most common causes of sleep apnoea but other factors which can contribute to the condition include:

  • Alcohol consumption, especially in the evening, as this relaxes the throat muscles and hampers the brain’s reaction to sleep disordered breathing
  • certain illnesses, such as reduced thyroid production or the presence of a very large goitre
  • large tonsils, especially in children
  • medications, such as sleeping tablets and sedatives
  • nasal congestion and obstruction
  • facial bone shape and the size of muscles, such as an undershot jaw.

Community pharmacies are a great source of some treatment options for sleep aponea as well as providing home testing kits.

If you have sleep aponea changes to lifestyle, including losing weight and cutting down on alcohol, may be necessary. Your community pharmacy may have weight management programs which can help reduce your weight.

The most effective treatment available is a mask worn at night that prevents the throat from collapsing by transmitting increased air pressure to the collapsible segment of the throat. This is called ‘nasal continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP). The key to this treatment is finding a mask and machine that match the needs of a given individual with sleep apnoea and many community pharmacies now specialise in fitting and maintaining these masks and training patients in their proper use.

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