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Urgent Need For Improved Sleep Services In New Zealand

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Urgent Need For Improved Sleep Services In New Zealand

New Zealand Sleep Specialists are calling for an urgent review of sleep services following the announcement that up to ten per cent of the adult population has sleep apnea, and the majority are undiagnosed.

Dr Michael Hlavac, Sleep Specialist at Christchurch Hospital and Chair of the New Zealand branch of the Australasian Sleep Association, said: "New Zealand Sleep Services are poorly resourced to deal with the current burden of disease. Most obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) remains unrecognised, which is of huge concern given the known consequences of untreated OSA.

"Sleep apnoea is associated with serious medical consequences, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

"Even more concerning is the increased rates of sleep apnoea in Maori and Pacific people, who are much less able to access health services, and generally have more severe disease.

Dr Hlavac went on to say, "A recent economic analysis has shown that untreated sleep apnoea costs NZ an estimated NZ$40 million per year, whereas diagnosing and treating OSA is one of the most cost-effective interventions in the health system.

"Health Authorities and the government need to be aware of this significant health issue and develop resources so New Zealanders can be diagnosed and treated.

"We also need resources to educate the general population and health workers about sleep apnea. If you wake feeling tired each day or if hear your partner stop breathing when they are asleep and then briefly wake gasping for breath they need to see a doctor".

New Zealand sleep specialists are currently developing a National Strategy to increase awareness of OSA and other sleep disorders. Once completed they hope to meet with government officials and health authorities to discuss implementing the strategy.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea? OSA is where you stop breathing for up to 60 seconds while sleeping due to the airway collapsing, causing a blockage in the throat or upper airway. This can occur hundreds of times a night and after each episode patients briefly awake with a gasping, snorting or choking sound. OSA causes the blood oxygen levels to fall and a person's sleep to be disrupted resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness. Common consequences of OSA are excessive daytime sleepiness and sluggish brain function. These have been linked to an increased risk of car and work accidents, decreased productivity and a lower quality of life.

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