A DROWSY moment on a road trip motivated a Perth mother to seek help for undiagnosed sleep issues.
“I didn’t know I had a problem until I went away on holiday with my sisters,” Rona Chiera said.
The Madeley resident said they were on a country road taking turns to drive and within a couple of minutes of her taking the wheel, her sister noticed she was closing her eyes.
“I could have run off the road within minutes of being the driver,” she said.
“I could have killed us all.”
After speaking to a chemist, the 52-year-old started using a sleep apnoea machine a year ago and that has become the first thing she packs whenever she goes on holiday.
“I wake up refreshed and I feel like I’ve had a proper rest at night,” Mrs Chiera said.
She said her health had improved overall, so she was using less medication for other issues such as reflux.
Blooms the Chemist Joondalup partner and pharmacist Andria Aird said sleep apnoea was highly undiagnosed and could affect anyone, including children.
Ms Aird said the condition narrowed airways, reducing oxygen to the brain while people slept.
“The body then rouses itself to get more oxygen,” she said.
“They don’t feel themselves wake up but a partner will say they heard them snort.”
Ms Aird said common signs included if a partner said the person stopped breathing during the night, or if they struggled staying awake while driving.
“People who have sleep apnoea are more likely to have a car accident,” she said.
Ms Aird said anyone having sleep issues should discuss it with their health professional, whether that’s a GP or pharmacist.
“We really underestimate the value of sleep,” she said.
“If you are not getting enough sleep, it’s really hard to maintain overall health.”
The pharmacist said a lack of sleep could lead to poor judgement, lack of concentration, lack of memory, anxiety, and feeling upset, angry or irritable.
She said longer term issues included heart disease and diabetes, obesity, higher blood pressure and poor mental health.
“It reduces your immunity if you are not getting enough sleep,” she said.
Ms Aird said during COVID-19 there had been an increase in mental health issues, including insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Her tips included reducing alcohol consumption, eating well, getting sunlight and reducing caffeine intake after lunch, as well as developing a bedtime routine that avoided screens.
“If you’ve got worries in your mind, allocate time in your day to think about those issues,” she said.
“I don’t like to have a clock too visible in the bedroom – it’s easy to count down the hours and get stressed about not having enough sleep.”
She said a recent Monash study found 46 per cent of Australians were sleeping poorly as a result of the pandemic.
Sleeping better program offers tips
The ECU Psychological Services Centre will run its ‘Sleeping better’ program on September 10 from 9am to 12.30pm at the ECU Health Centre, 30 Dundebar Road, Wanneroo.
The program will debunk myths about sleep, recommend good sleeping practices and routines, strategies to combat worry and relaxation techniques.
It costs $20 per person with reduced fees for concession card holders – call 9303 7801 or email [email protected] to register.