Snoring & Sleep Apnoea
Everybody snores occasionally, but loud and persistent snoring is more than just a nuisance and may indicate a potentially serious condition called sleep apnoea.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
The most common form of sleep apnoea is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). People with OSA will snore, but snoring is punctuated by pauses in breathing, sometimes for up to a minute until the brain prompts the body to restart breathing, which often happens with a loud snort or gasp. These episodes can occur multiple times each night. While they might not be enough to awaken you entirely, they do prevent the body from reaching REM sleep which is important for achieving a rested state and allowing your body to recover during sleep.
What Causes OSA?
During sleep, the throat muscles relax, allowing the airway to narrow as the tissues fall inwards, so it becomes more difficult to breathe freely and oxygen levels in the blood begin to drop. You brain senses when you cannot get enough oxygen and briefly awakens you, so your airway reopens. These awakenings are usually so quick that you won’t remember them.
Who Is More Likely to Develop Sleep Apnoea?
Risk factors for sleep apnoea include being overweight, older and male. Other factors that can increase your risk of OSA are using alcohol and smoking, or a family history of OSA. Some medical conditions, like Type II diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, can increase the risk of sleep apnoea.
The Effect on General Health
Loud snoring and gasping for air while asleep can cause a dry mouth on awakening. People with sleep apnoea will often awaken feeling tired, and daytime sleepiness can affect everyday activities and might increase the risk of an accident at work or while driving. If you have sleep apnoea, you could feel more irritable or may wake up with a headache.
Sleep apnoea can have other serious effects on general health and may increase the risk of heart problems like high blood pressure and having a heart attack. It is even more important to seek
treatment for OSA if you have heart disease already.
OSA can affect the health of other family members, and especially sleeping partners who may end up sleep-deprived. Fortunately, OSA is very treatable.
Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnoea
A sleep study will identify if you have sleep apnoea and its severity. Mild to moderate OSA is often easily treated with a custom-made night splint which we can provide here at Divine Smiles.
This oral device is designed to place your lower jaw in a slightly forwards position so that when you sleep, it holds your airway open more effectively and your tongue cannot flop backwards to block your airway. There are several oral devices available for treating sleep apnoea so we can select the best for your needs.
Lifestyle modifications may also be useful, such as maintaining a normal weight, taking exercise and avoiding alcohol and smoking. Try sleeping on your side or front, so your tongue is less able to fall back towards your throat.
People with more severe OSA might need a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, where you wear a mask during sleep and breathe pressurised air that keeps the airway open. However, some find this device too tricky to use comfortably and may prefer to try a custom night splint instead.