A substantial portion of our lives are spent asleep and the quality of our sleep is crucially important for the health of our minds and bodies.
Sleep medicine encompasses breathing-related sleep disorders, of which obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common. OSA is particularly important due to the fact that it is highly prevalent in our society, it is often left unrecognised and undiagnosed, and it is associated with higher risks of serious medical conditions (cardiovascular disease and others). It is a cause of sleepiness and impaired concentration; as a result it is often implicated in serious motor vehicle crashes and workplace accidents involving heavy machinery.
Insomnia refers to difficulties getting off to sleep and/or staying asleep during the night, with resultant impairments in daytime functioning. It is not a single condition but a syndrome which may be caused by a variety of contributing factors including behavioural and psychological, as well as the effects of other medical conditions and medications.
In addition, there are neurological causes of impaired sleep (e.g. restless legs syndrome) and excessive sleepiness (e.g. narcolepsy) which require specialist assessment and treatment. It is all too common to suffer with these conditions for many years without a proper diagnosis made or effective treatment instituted.