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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Sleep apnoea service launched

Sleep apnoea service launched

Posted on Tuesday 9th April 2013
Russell Cathcart

ENT Consultant Russell Cathcart

A new sleep apnoea service has been launched at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

Sleep apnoea is the most common sleep related medical disorder with estimates suggesting that at least four in every hundred men have the condition. People with the disorder experience repetitive episodes of complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, preventing air from entering the lungs and causing oxygen levels in the blood to run low. When the body works to overcome the obstruction, the person will wake up. Although sufferers are usually unaware of these awakenings, it prevents a deep sleep meaning they rarely wake up feeling fully refreshed and tend to fall asleep easily throughout the day. Sleep apnoea is also known to have effects on patients’ long-term health, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Patients in north Cumbria have previously been attending sleep apnoea clinics in Barrow-in-Furness. A recent audit asked patients what they thought of the service in Barrow and results showed they were happy with the service but not with the distance they had to travel especially when excessive sleepiness is linked to up to one fifth of accidents on motorways and other monotonous roads and 10% of all accidents. If somebody is diagnosed with sleep apnoea, they should avoid driving until it is under control with treatment.

Sleep apnoea is usually caused by obesity, narrowed airway, reduced muscle tone or a blocked nose, making it harder to draw air into the chest. The most common cause is obesity and lifestyle changes such as weight loss or cutting back on alcohol will help ease the symptoms and can potentially lead to overcoming the condition.

Mr Russell Cathcart, ENT Consultant who is leading the new service for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “When I first see a patient who has symptoms that would be consistent with sleep apnoea, I will organise a ‘sleep study’ to determine whether or not they have the condition. This involves wearing a device attached to the chest overnight in their own bedroom, which will record their breathing and oxygen levels during sleep. If the study suggests the patient is likely to have sleep apnoea, they will usually be given a trial of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy.

“CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask attached to a medical air compressor when sleeping to regulate breathing. This treatment allows patients to have a good night’s sleep, reducing daytime tiredness and improving concentration. The benefits of the therapy can be seen after only one week, although it does require long-term use.

“After many months of work to set up the service, I am looking forward to welcoming our first sleep apnoea patients to the Cumberland Infirmary on Tuesday. I am pleased that we can now offer this service locally to people in north Cumbria.”