A pathway to a healthier you

Sleep issues – detecting apnea

Makena read up on all the sleep tips, and did her best to follow them. “I try to apply healthy sleep practices, but it just isn’t practical. I can’t go to sleep and wake at the same time on. On night duty, it’s often noisy during the day, preventing proper sleep, and trying to have a wind down routine before bed is usually not possible when you work a PM or night duty shift.”

I haven’t always been the best sleeper, but when I became a midwife, it got so much worse. I would lie in bed tossing and turning, staring up at the ceiling wondering ‘what is wrong with me? Why can’t I sleep?
Makena, midwife of five years

Signs and symptoms of apnea

Most mornings, Makena would wake up with a headache, sore throat, and persistent tiredness through the day.  She snored, often felt irritable, and suffered from depression. Because Makena didn’t fit the usual picture of a sleep apnea sufferer- overweight, older, male, and a drinker and/or smoker, it didn’t occur to her that sleep apnea could be the cause of her issues.

“I talked to my GP about my sleeping issues. She thought I had some sleep apnea symptoms and sent me for a sleep study. Turns out, I have moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It’s actually a relief to know I have a condition that is treatable which was causing some of my sleep problems.” 

Common for nurses and women experiencing menopause

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. Relatively common, approximately 18.5% of nurses were found to be at moderate-severe risk for obstructive sleep apnea in one study. The incidence of sleep apnea increases significantly for women after menopause. 

Treatment options

Makena was referred to a sleep specialist who made a number of recommendations for treatment. It was suggested that she consider using a CPAP machine, see a myofunctional therapist to strengthen the muscles around the airway, and begin a regular exercise routine.   

There is evidence that myofunctional therapy can decrease sleep apnea severity by 50%. Exercise, especially aerobic and strength training combined, can also reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.

Makena took steps to include more exercise in her day. “I wasn’t exercising much, because I was so tired and depressed. I joined a running group, because I prefer to exercise with others, and then I get to spend more time outdoors. I found exercise gave me energy and my mood and sleep got a lot better!”. 

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