We know today that to be in good health, we must practice physical exercise, take care of our diet or meditate. In short, try and have a balanced lifestyle. Furthermore, humans are becoming more and more aware that their body must be taken care of, and this is a good thing! But among all these preoccupations, an essential one is missing, that of having a quality sleep. Why is this? Because sleep is one of the fundamental pillars of our health. For example, we can go one day without eating or drinking, but one day without sleeping is a feat! However, the sleep of Western populations is increasingly disturbed.
Screens, insomnia or sleep apnea syndromes, in this article we try to understand what your sleep says about you and your health.
When it comes to sleeping, the first question you have to ask yourself is : am I a snorer? If the answer is yes, you are like more than 45% of Belgians adults who snore regularly according to John Hopkins Medicine (2021). This may make you smile, but snoring can be a sign of more serious pathologies with devastating consequences on your health. In 10 to 20% of cases, snoring hides an obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA), according to a study by the Mutualité Chrétienne (2018).
The Federal Center for Health Care Expertise (KCE, 2020) defines obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) as "repeated episodes of complete (apnea) or partial (hypopnea) obstruction of the upper airway during sleep." Between 5 and 14 episodes per hour, apnea is considered mild, between 15 and 30 it is moderate, and above 30 it is considered severe.
Sleep apnea syndrome is a risk factor for a whole series of other diseases and affects twice as many men as women over the age of 40. In fact in 2018, the KCE estimated that 140,000 Belgians were treated for OSA, an increase of nearly 300% since 2011. However, many cases are not diagnosed and it is estimated that about 5% of the Belgian population could be affected by this phenomenon. In the short term, the consequences can be minor, such as recurrent nightmares, sleepiness or fatigue during the following day. In the long term, sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular complications, including strokes. As you can see on the infographic below, sleep apnea can have many consequences on health and it is easy to enter a vicious circle.
Factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, heavy smoking, overweight, or sleeping on your back can favor the occurrence of OSA. However, according to Dr. Paul Wulleman (2021), the main source of this phenomenon is the shift from nasal to oral breathing at a young age. Mouth breathing is related to the relaxation of the muscular tissues of the throat and jaw, and this relaxation is also the cause of airway obstruction during sleep. Initially soundless in children, mouth breathing becomes audible in adults, which gives rise to snoring. It is therefore important to listen to your body and act quickly when certain symptoms appear. In case of noisy snoring or intense daytime fatigue, it is recommended to contact your doctor who will be able to guide you towards adequate treatment.
(Info Sommeil, 2016)
Now that we have seen the sources and consequences of obstructive sleep apnea, how are they usually treated? The classic treatments for OSA are usually night gutters (an orthosis designed to move the jaw forward), CPAP (a breathing device that increases the pressure in the airways), or surgery for critical cases. However, these devices treat the consequences and not the source of the condition. Without making any medical claims, we believe that reeducation of nasal breathing would strengthen the muscles of the throat, prevent airway obstruction and thus treat the problem at its source.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is a real societal problem today and it is important to raise awareness on this issue and to treat it at the source. At WeNap, we also want to be a part of this awareness-raising movement around sleep in general and we have the ambition for our pods to serve as an entry point into this world often unknown for users.