Man sleeps using a Sleep Apnoea CPAP Machine

Understanding Sleep Apnoea and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS)

Sleep plays a crucial role in our overall well-being and health. However, numerous individuals suffer from sleep disorders which disrupt their rest, potentially leading to severe health problems. Among the most prevalent and hazardous sleep disorders is sleep apnoea. At CAS Medical, our aim is to help you develop an understanding of sleep apnoea, recognise its warning signs, and take proactive measures to safeguard your health.


The Dangers of Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is characterised by repeated cessations and restorations of breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing can range from a few seconds to minutes and can occur 30 times or more an hour, resulting in fragmented sleep and lower blood oxygen levels. This condition can have severe implications for one's health.


Associated Health Risks

If left untreated, sleep apnoea can significantly increase the risk of:

  • Hypertension: Recurring episodes of low oxygen levels during sleep can contribute to the development of high blood pressure.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: The strain of repeated awakenings can tax the heart, increasing the likelihood of heart attacks, arrhythmias, and other cardiovascular issues.
  • Stroke: Sleep apnoea can substantially elevate the risk of suffering a stroke.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: There exists a strong link between sleep apnoea and type 2 diabetes due to the body's inability to regulate blood sugar levels properly.
  • Depression: Sleep disruptions can have a negative impact on mental health, potentially leading to depression and anxiety.
  • Daytime Fatigue: Poor sleep quality can result in severe daytime drowsiness, heightening the risk of accidents at work or while operating a vehicle.


Warning Signs of Sleep Apnoea

Early recognition of the warning signs of sleep apnoea is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Loud Snoring: Often noticed by a bed partner, chronic and loud snoring is a common indicator.
  • Gasping for Air During Sleep: Witnessed by others, this can signify interrupted breathing.
  • Morning Headaches: Frequent headaches upon waking up are a potential warning sign.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Feeling excessively sleepy during the day, even after a full night's sleep.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: The condition can lead to cognitive issues and problems with memory.
  • Irritability: Mood swings and irritability are often caused by poor sleep quality.


Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

The most common form of this condition is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax excessively, blocking the airway. The severity of OSA can vary:

  • Mild OSA: Characterised by 5-15 episodes of interrupted breathing per hour.
  • Moderate OSA: Involving 15-30 episodes per hour.
  • Severe OSA: Characterised by more than 30 episodes per hour.

The severity of OSA significantly impacts overall health. Individuals suffering from severe OSA are at higher risk for the aforementioned health issues and should seek immediate medical attention.


Undiagnosed Cases in the UK

Sleep apnoea is underdiagnosed, with many individuals being unaware that they suffer from this condition. In the UK alone, it is estimated that millions of people have sleep apnoea, but a large number of cases remain undiagnosed. This lack of awareness can lead to untreated conditions, putting individuals at risk of the serious health complications mentioned earlier.


The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS)

One effective tool to assess your risk for sleep apnoea is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). Developed by Dr. Murray Johns, the ESS is a simple, self-administered questionnaire that helps measure daytime sleepiness. It consists of eight questions that ask about your likelihood of dozing off in various daily situations.

Here’s how it works…

The ESS prompts you to rate, on a scale from 0 to 3, your usual chances of dozing off or falling asleep while engaged in eight different activities, such as:

  • Sitting and reading
  • Watching TV
  • Sitting inactive in a public place
  • As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
  • Lying down to rest in the afternoon
  • Sitting and talking to someone
  • Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
  • In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic.

Your total ESS score can range from 0 to 24. A higher score indicates a greater degree of daytime sleepiness, which could suggest the presence of a sleep disorder like sleep apnoea.

What to Do If You Are at Risk

If you suspect you might have sleep apnoea, or if you score high on the ESS, it's crucial to take action. Here are some steps you can take:

Measure Your Risk

Make use of free self-assessment questionnaires online to evaluate your risk level. Some available resources include the STOP-BANG questionnaire and OSA Partnership Screening Tool.

Schedule a Consultation

Contact CAS Medical for a comprehensive evaluation. Our experienced team can provide a detailed assessment and discuss your symptoms. We offer personalised care to diagnose and manage sleep apnoea effectively.

Participate in a Sleep Study

A sleep study, or polysomnography, is the gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnoea. This test monitors your breathing, oxygen levels, and other vital signs overnight to identify any sleep disorders. Speak to us about getting you on a sleep study via our vast network of private medical practitioners and facilities. It costs less than you think, and the reward it offers can be critical to a better quality of life.

Explore Treatment Options

  • If diagnosed with sleep apnoea, several treatment options are available:
  • Lifestyle Changes: Weight loss, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol can improve symptoms.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): This device delivers air pressure through a mask to keep your airways open while you sleep.
  • Oral Appliances: These devices help keep your throat open by repositioning your jaw or tongue.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery might be necessary to remove tissue or correct structural issues causing the apnoea.


Take Action Today

Don't let sleep apnoea go undiagnosed and untreated. It's time to take control of your health and ensure you get the restful sleep you need. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of sleep apnoea, or if you score high on the ESS or similar self-assessment, reach out to us at CAS Medical sooner rather than later. Our experts are here to help you diagnose and manage sleep apnoea, providing you with the best possible care.

Contact us today and schedule a consultation to start your journey to better sleep and better health.