Insomnia and sleep apnoea jointly tackled by experts

Researchers in Adelaide are making a concerted effort to help thousands of Australians who have both insomnia and sleep apnoea.

A team from Flinders University is recruiting for a trial that involves people with both sleep disorders.

Researcher Professor Leon Lack says people suffering both disorders are often reluctant to treat the sleep apnoea because it requires wearing a mask while asleep, which can prove noisy if their nose is blocked as well as an uncomfortable tactile sensation.

"Most insomniacs will really be very careful about their sleep and try to protect their sleep environment as much as possible," he said.

"These two things combined actually provide a very stressed and unhealthy person, and it's much more common than we thought.

"Treating these two disorders together hasn't ever been addressed."

Professor Lack said the impact of sleep disorders can be severe.

"People possibly can fall asleep while driving or doing something else ... so falling asleep is a real hazard for people with obstructive sleep apnoea," he said.

Lack of sleep a big health risk

The researchers say people often are tired during the day and there can be an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease or high anxiety.

One of those taking part in the Adelaide research is Sue Thomson, who has spent years hoping for a good night's sleep.

It was her husband's complaints about her snoring that led her to see a doctor, who diagnosed her with insomnia and sleep apnoea.

"[I was] very, very stressed. I'd be working over things in my brain and that didn't help me, because my brain was going 99-to-the-dozen and then I'd think 'I've got to get up in the morning'," she said.

After a month of using a sleep apnoea mask and developing a new routine to help tackle her insomnia, Ms Thomson already is seeing improvements.

"[I am] not so tired and just generally a lot better, not so up-and-down with moods," she said.

The Flinders team is keen to recruit 140 participants in all for its trial at the Repatriation Hospital in Adelaide.

More information is available on (08) 8275 1301 or at