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Wednesday 19th June 2019

Sleep disorder cases rise

6th October 2011

The NHS is being hit by a “tidal wave” of sleep disorder cases that are related to obesity.


In Scotland, the number of people being referred for sleep problems has risen 25% over the past three years and some 80% of those patients overweight.

While similar figures for other areas of the UK are not available, Scottish sleep disorder experts suggest that the situation is likely to be similar elsewhere in the country.

About 2% of people have sleep apnoea, which is a problem linked to the shape of the throat, which can cause them to stop breathing and constantly wake up though excess weight around a person’s neck can cause the condition or make it worse.

Sleep disorder expert Dr Tom Mackay from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh says he is facing a “tidal wave” of cases.

“Over the past five to 10 years we have noticed quite a rise in the number of people being referred to us,” he said. “That rise seems to be accelerating. We are now seeing 2,500 new patients each year.

“We are reaching capacity in terms of what we can cope with, and there is an undoubted link with people’s weight.”

The condition means more drivers are not getting a good night’s sleep and there are fears this is leading to crashes. The DVLA estimates 20% of serious incidents on major roads are caused by sleepy drivers.

Dr Mackay said anyone who thinks they may be suffering from sleep apnoea should get properly diagnosed.


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