Has it ever happened to you or a loved one that you fell asleep at the steering wheel? This is something Sydney nurse Fran Boyer experienced until she rammed her car into the railings when she fell asleep while driving back home.
Fran Boyer’s case isn’t an isolated incident where the people have dozed off behind the wheel or while watching TV. It is believed that one-quarter of women and half of the men over the age of 50 suffer from sleep apnoea.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
In obstructive sleep apnoea, the throat muscle gets over relaxed and collapses while you sleep. This causes a partial obstruction of the airways, so just a little or no air can get into the lungs. When the breathing pattern becomes interrupted, the brain sends a warning signal making you wake up with a startle. This process of disrupted sleep, when continued hundreds of times over several nights, can lead to poor sleep quality.
Apart from poor-quality sleep, some symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Reduced breathing
- Gasping for air
- Sleepiness during daytime
- Constant dry mouth
- Headaches on waking up
- Reduced concentration
- Increased feeling of depression and anxiety
An ongoing study by Sydney’s Woolcock Institute investigates the impacts of sleep apnoea on the brain and uncovered new insights into the brains of people suffering this condition.
What Happens to Your Brain When Your Sleep is Frequently Disrupted in a Night?
The lead researcher of this study Dr. Angela D’Rozario says that when you utilise certain parts of your brain during the day, you need sound sleep to preserve and restore those brain cells. She says that people with this sleep disorder don’t get the sound sleep required for the restorative process.
This eventually slows down the regeneration of the areas of the brain that need daily repair.
Her team fits a 250-electrodes cap to monitor brain activities of people with sleep apnoea by putting them through a difficult driving stimulation. They investigate why people with sleep apnea have serious brain fog and difficulties concentrating on driving.
Correlation Between Sleep Apnea and Road Accidents
Dr D’Rozario believes that the brain’s ability to cope with the lack of good sleep diminishes, and so it tries to balance the deficit throughout the day. She says that neurons go into sleep mode when you are not prepared to physically sleep. According to her, sometimes it isn’t easy to know if people are asleep as their eyes may be partially open.
Allowing people to drive around with certain portions of their brain asleep can pose a serious threat to road safety. An estimate says that around 20% of road accidents are caused due to fatigue, and they are more likely to be fatal than other things.
Lynne Bilston – a senior principal research scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia, believes that it is crucial to understand what goes on in the brains of people having sleep apnoea. According to her, obstructive sleep increases the risk of vehicle crashes by 2.4 times. Moreover, she even stated that the risk of car crashes reduces significantly when people apply for an effective sleep apnoea treatment program.
How Does Home Sleep Study Help You?
If you or a loved one is suffering from poor sleep, contact Home Sleep Studies Australia. We are dedicated to providing the best diagnostic and treatment for sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea.
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