Background: Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a common condition with multiple symptoms dominated by daytime somnolence. Thus many worries and concerns of patients remain hidden. Treatment by nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can be imposing for the individual. An analysis of the freely expressed concerns of such patients is required.
Objective: To seek an in-depth analysis of how patients live with sleep apnoea by allowing them an open discourse and analysing the text of their statements.
Design: A trained psychologist conducted semi-directive interviews with patients attending a pulmonary rehabilitation and convalescent unit around the themes of sleep, health and treatment. An analysis of content and of discourse was carried out by textual analysis and by propositional analysis of discourse (PAD) with the aid of dedicated computer programs (Tropes, Sphinx Lexica).
Results: Thirty patients with severe sleep apnoea were interviewed of whom 15 were initiating treatment with CPAP. Patients spoke of abnormal fatigue (22 mentions) and somnolence (21 times). Many have problems with obesity (25 instances), snoring related problems (12). There were 30 mentions of depression with a relationship to alcohol and anti-depressives. Twenty six times the theme of nocturnal waking was raised. There were many instances of problems with CPAP (nasal mask and noise problems raised 21 times). Patients have problems with relationships and sex because of OSAS. Other concerns were loss of memory and fear of dying.
Conclusion: In a non-directed conversation OSAS patients express concerns not revealed in the standard medical paradigm and such concerns should be addressed in assessing treatment or evaluating quality of life (QOL).