Sleep Apnoea and Autoimmune Disease

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Feature image from KINGWALLS

I have always struggled with sleeping, more specifically, the waking up part.  I had always thought it was a combination of being lazy, doing lots of exercise, and having an autoimmune disorder.  I never dreamed that this whole time, for almost 30 years, I’ve been struggling to sleep, almost choking to death in the night from sleep apnoea.  FU*K!

A recent trip to the dentist confirmed just that.  I had been concerned that my teeth were moving around a little in my mouth.  I was worried I would end up looking like future Lisa Simpson if she never got braces.  I verbalised my concern to the dentist, asking if there was some sort of mouth plate I could wear while I slept.  I told him my jaw and cheeks often hurt a lot when I woke up and I was worried I was clenching my jaw or something.

Three weeks later, one overnight sleep study and a long look inside my mouth and ears confirmed that I had been struggling with mild sleep apnoea for probably my whole life.

Sleep Apnea is a relatively common condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep, as the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse, reducing the size of the airway.

It is common knowledge that a good night’s sleep is vital for your health.  A bad night sleep can affect your health, mental state and overall sense of wellbeing.  My dentist pointed out all the incredible health problems that face people with untreated Sleep Apnea and I was shocked.

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Small brain lesions
  • abnormalities in the blood vessels,
  • even sudden hearing loss

Now a direct link between sleep disturbance and immune function is here!  Sleep disturbances are now believed to be both a CAUSE AND A CONSEQUENCE of various immune and autoimmune conditions.  Sleep problems may also be an early warning sign of an autoimmune disorder.

Medical director of Arthritis Research UK Professor ALAN SILMAN commented: “The fact that there is an association between rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory auto-immune conditions such as lupus and ankylosing spondylitis and sleep apnoea is an interesting area for research. “While we know that a disproportionate number of people with rheumatoid arthritis have sleep apnoea, and there may be a link, we don’t yet fully understand the reasons behind it.

It is unlikely that the apnoea is a cause of these disorders but as with many chronic conditions which affect tissues in the body there may be problems affecting the muscles and nerves which can rarely interfere with the airway and so trigger problems breathing when asleep.”

Sleep Apnea can now be easily and cheaply diagnosed.  In Australia Medicare will cover the cost of one sleep study per person.  Patients are finally getting the information they desperately need.

There is a lot of talk going around online at the moment that too many people are being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea; that it is a trend at the moment.  I disagree.  I feel like it might just be getting the attention it has always deserved.  The connection between sleep and health is really started to come to light.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Keep reading here…

HEALTH EFFECTS OF SLEEP APNEA, from the Huffington Post

SLEEP APNEA FACT SHEET, from Sleep Health Facts

AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS AND SLEEP PROBLEMS, from Everyday Health

OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP LINKED to autoimmune disease

by Meg

Meghan Brewster is a writer and blogger. She is an ITP patient and launched ITP&Me in 2011. She is a coffee lover and a try hard dancer. @meghan_brewster

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