Physical Activity And Sleep Apnoea

The Relation Between Physical Activity And Sleep Apnoea - Interview With Caroline Rolland (2024)

Last updated: 30.01.2024 Reading time: 6 Min.

Sleep apnoea, a widespread health concern, carries numerous adverse side effects.

While it remains without a definitive cure, various methods exist to mitigate its symptoms and improve the quality of life for those who suffer from it.

A significant number of these methods are linked to physical health and well-being.

To delve deeper into this aspect, we engaged in a conversation with physiotherapist Caroline Rolland to address some frequently asked questions and concerns.

caroline rolland

Caroline Rolland in a nutshell

  • Caroline is an experienced physiotherapist and osteopath.
  • She is based in Paris, France.
  • Her expertise includes working with patients struggling with various conditions, including rheumatic, neurological, and respiratory issues.

Introducing Caroline Rolland

Caroline is a France-based physiotherapist and osteopath with extensive experience in treating a diverse range of patients.

Her expertise includes working with individuals suffering from rheumatic and neurological conditions, as well as those experiencing respiratory issues.

Additionally, Caroline plays a significant role in supporting breast cancer patients. She provides comprehensive care that spans from preoperative treatment to postoperative breast reconstruction assistance.

Her professional experience is not limited to adults; she also works with children, bringing a broad spectrum of care to all age groups.

More recently, Caroline has expanded her practice to include working with athletes, helping them prepare for the demands of competitive sports in all its facets.

Understanding sleep apnoea

To begin with, we asked Caroline about some of the basics of sleep apnoea.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a sleep-related breathing disorder marked by recurrent pauses in breathing, each lasting at least 10 seconds, that can occur multiple times within an hour of sleep. 😮‍💨

These interruptions in breathing are known as apnoeas or respiratory pauses.

Such pauses can significantly diminish both sleep quality and overall quality of life.

What causes sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is primarily associated with the relaxation of the tongue and pharyngeal muscles, which obstructs air passage during sleep.

Key risk factors for adults include being overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, a family history of Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (SAS), and advanced age.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?

Often, individuals with sleep apnoea are not the first to recognise their condition.

It's typically their partners who notice symptoms, such as breathing pauses during sleep, often accompanied by snoring and restlessness.

man with sleep apnoea snoring
Snoring is a more common nighttime symptom of sleep apnoea.

However, those suffering from sleep apnoea may experience daytime symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration, and tiredness despite seemingly adequate sleep.

Common signs and symptoms or side effects of sleep apnea include loud snoring, persistent daytime fatigue despite sufficient time spent in bed, episodes of gasping or choking during sleep, startled awakenings with a sensation of choking or suffocating, difficulties with concentration and memory, mood disturbances, and morning headaches.

What are the health implications of sleep apnoea?

The respiratory pauses characteristic of sleep apnoea lead to fluctuations in heart rate, slowing down during pauses and speeding up upon resuming breathing.

These fluctuations can strain the heart muscle (myocardium) over time, potentially leading to serious health issues.

Additionally, sleep apnoea can result in reduced oxygen levels in the blood.

But, of course, the most significant health implication of sleep apnoea is that it leads to poor sleep, which carries many other problems.

woman struggling with depression
In the long term, poor sleep can even lead to depression.

All sleep disorders affect short-term well-being but also have long-term health consequences. These can include alterations in appetite and satiety, increased obesity risk, respiratory problems, and arterial hypertension.

Overall, inadequate sleep directly impairs cognitive and emotional functioning. It leads to concentration difficulties, reduced alertness, irritability, and, in some cases, even depression.

In essence, poor sleep significantly affects both health and life quality.

Treating sleep apnoea

Understanding sleep apnoea is one thing - but how can you treat and improve the symptoms of sleep apnoea?

When should you seek help?

Many patients with apnoeas and micro-awakenings do not notice these disruptions themselves, which frequently results in a delay in seeking medical attention.

In fact, a staggering 80% of those affected are unaware of their condition.

It's crucial to consult a healthcare practitioner as soon as a partner observes respiratory pauses during sleep or if symptoms like heightened fatigue, irritability, or concentration difficulties become apparent. These symptoms can significantly impair one's professional and social life.

In such cases, your primary care physician can guide and refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.

What is the best treatment for sleep apnoea?

Currently, the only proven treatment for sleep apnoea is assisted ventilation using a positive pressure device.

man on assistent ventilation machine
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines are used in the treatment of sleep apnoea.

There are no pharmaceutical treatments available for this condition.

However, addressing other contributing factors is crucial. ✅

Managing underlying issues, such as obesity and cardiovascular problems, as well as environmental influences like sedentary lifestyles, stress, and smoking, is important in the overall treatment and management of sleep apnoea.

What role does physiotherapy play?

Managing contributing factors is one of the best ways to improve the symptoms of sleep apnoea, and this is where physiotherapy can really make a difference.

How can physiotherapists help patients with sleep apnoea?

While physiotherapists cannot substitute for the treatments provided by a medical team, their involvement can significantly enhance the management of sleep apnoea and its symptoms.

Typically, the role of physiotherapists involves creating a personalised training programme focusing on regular physical activity. 🏃

people exercising with weights
A physiotherapist may design an exercise programme to help you combat symptoms of sleep apnoea.

Active individuals who engage in sports and exercise often experience better sleep quality compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle.

Given that sleep apnoea is commonly observed in individuals who are overweight, incorporating physical exercise and a balanced diet is key to effectively managing the condition's symptoms.

However, it's important to note that not all physiotherapists are trained to assist with sleep apnea. For appropriate guidance and referral to a specialised physiotherapist, consult with your primary care physician.

What is the role of evening physical activity on sleep?

It's a common belief that exercising before bedtime might make it harder to fall asleep.

However, engaging in physical activity in the four hours before going to bed can be beneficial for both mental and physical health.

Research [1] involving healthy individuals has shown that the amount of time spent in deep sleep increases after engaging in sports activities compared to periods of inactivity.

person doing yoga at night
Physical activity in the four hours before bed can help you sleep better.

This is particularly relevant given the modern trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle, which has been linked to an increase in conditions like obesity and diabetes.

The link between physical activity and sleep quality is quite evident. Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to facilitate a smoother transition from sleep to wakefulness and enhance motivation throughout the day.

But balancing sports and sleep is crucial, as each influences the other.

Poor sleep quality can lead to decreased efficiency and increased fatigue due to inadequate muscle recovery, leading to stiffness, inflammation, injuries, and other issues.

There's no universal agreement on the best type of evening sports activity, its intensity, duration, or frequency. What is clear is the improvement in wakefulness and reduction in fatigue the following day.

Caroline Rolland and Sleep Hero

Caroline is part of our team of Sleep Hero experts.

sleep hero expert
Caroline is one of our Sleep Hero experts.

With her assistance, we can better come to terms with how physical activity influences sleep - and also how different sleep products may affect the body.

Read more about our other sleep experts.

If you enjoy expert interviews, you may be intrigued by some of the other interviews we've done:

You can also browse our blog for more. 😉

Contact Caroline Rolland

Contact: To contact Caroline, please reach out to her directly via her LinkedIn [2] profile.

Frequently asked questions



Editor & Certified Sleep Therapist

Nicky is an experienced writer and editor with numerous qualifications. As a certified sleep coach, her interests lie in understanding how sleep problems arise from hormonal and environmental issues, particularly as part of stress and anxiety management.

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