People living in the North East are among the most likely in Britain to suffer a dangerous sleep disorder.
Research studying the rate of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in areas across the UK for the first time has put Northumberland and South Tyneside at the wrong end of the health table.
Those living in those areas are among the highest 5% in the country predicted to be struck down with the condition which can cause people to stop breathing while asleep.
The study, carried out by the British Lung Foundation, sparked calls for people in the region to look out for the symptoms which include snoring, feeling sleepy during the day and struggling to breath while asleep.
Durham Dales, Gateshead, Sunderland, North Durham and Darlington were also predicted to have rates putting them within the top 20% of the country with rates in North Tyneside, Hartlepool and Stockton also predicted to be higher than average. On the plus side predicted prevalence of the condition in Newcastle North and East was lower than average.
The data was also mapped against the spread of UK sleep centres. The results revealed a ‘significant and concerning’ mismatch with large urban areas found to be far better served with sleep services, despite the lower risk of OSA than in rural parts of the UK.
Although relatively easy to treat, OSA is linked with a range of serious health concerns including stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes and high blood pressure when left undiagnosed and untreated. It can also significantly affect quality of life and ability to work, as well as increasing chances of road traffic accidents as much as seven-fold.
OSA affects people of all ages, including up to 4% of middle-aged men, 2% of middle-aged women, and 20% of those over 70. However, it is estimated around 80% of cases remain undiagnosed. With an increasingly overweight and ageing population, it is anticipated rates of OSA will increase.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “With rates of OSA likely to rise further with an ageing and increasingly overweight population, I hope this research will act as a wake up call for governments and NHS bodies across the UK. We need to improve access to treatment and diagnostic services.”
Dr Sophie West is lead of Newcastle Regional Sleep Service. She said the condition is prevalent in the region and intrinsically linked to obesity, adding: “Where weight is the issue a change in weight can solve the problem. There are also measures such as mouth shields and machines which can help with people’s breathing while they sleep. Along with weight people with small mouths or jaws and large tonsils can be effected by the condition.”