Snoring and Sleep Apnoea
What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder where you experience an absence or cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or longer while sleeping. This can happen multiple times during your sleep without your awareness. This condition can be broken down into three different variations:
- Central Apnoea- due to changes in the control centre of the brain
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)- characterised by repetitive episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the breathing airways.
- Mixed Apnoea- this is a combination of Central Apnoea and OSA.
What causes snoring?
Affecting approximately 40% of the adult population, and more prevalent in men than women, snoring is caused by vibrations of the soft palate, uvula and base of tongue when one inhales. This could either be due to blockages, having a narrow airway or low muscle tone. While seemingly harmless, snoring can sometimes be a symptom of more serious health issues, which is why it’s important to always have this assessed by a professional, no matter your age.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?
- Tiredness on waking
- Sore/dry throat on waking
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Poor concentration
- Decreased job performance
- Memory deterioration
- Decreased sex drive or impotence
- Mood swings
- Slow reaction times
Do these symptoms feel familiar? We recommend getting a professional diagnosis if so!
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?
When you have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, the muscles that normally keep the airways open tend to relax and sag. This means that your throat is partially or fully blocked while you are asleep, causing you to stop breathing. What happens next is that you try to overcome the obstruction by breathing harder using your chest wall muscles and diaphragm. However, the harder you try to breathe, the walls of the airway collapse more.
You are often unaware of this happening, but it can leave you feeling exhausted in the morning. If you have severe OSA, you may experience longer pauses in breathing and frequent interruptions to your sleep.
How is Sleep Apnoea Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have OSA, a visit to the dentist is highly recommended. They will refer you to a sleep study, which is the best way to diagnose sleep apnoea. These are medical tests that help diagnose the cause of your sleep disorder and its severity to help treat the condition. These sleep studies can be done at home or in a sleep clinic.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Risk Factors
Some factors that increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea include:
Excess weight, especially around the neck, can increase the amount of soft tissue in the throat, which may lead to airway obstruction during sleep.
OSA becomes more common as people age, particularly after the age of 40.
Men are more likely to develop OSA than women. However, the risk for women increases if they are overweight, have a large neck circumference, or have gone through menopause.
- Family History
If you have family members with OSA, you may be at a higher risk due to genetic factors that affect airway structure and function.
Smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, contributing to airway narrowing and increasing the risk of OSA.
- Alcohol and Sedative Use
These substances relax the muscles of the upper airway, making it more likely for the airway to collapse during sleep.
Health problems caused by sleep apnoea
It’s important to seek medical help for sleep apnoea because this, if left untreated, correlates with many health complications including:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Weight Gain
- Anxiety and depression
How can we help with sleep apnoea?
Our dentists can spot the warning signs of sleep apnoea and make a referral for you to get a medical assessment. There are different treatment plans available, including the use of a customized dental appliance called the Mandibular Advancement Splint.
This is a small device, much similar to that of a retainer or mouthguard, which individuals can wear during sleep. It works by gently bringing the lower jaw forward and preventing the soft tissue from collapsing and obstructing airflow. This is a non-invasive and pain-free approach that many people suffering from mild to moderate cases of OSA can consider.
Your dentist may also recommend a tongue retaining or stabilising device. It works by stabilising the tongue in a forward position to prevent it from sliding back down the throat and collapsing the airway.
You can also make some lifestyle changes at home to prevent sleep apnoea while using the sleep apnoea appliances mentioned above. These include:
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Sleeping on the side
- Avoiding or reducing alcohol consumption
Cost of Sleep Apnoea Treatment
The type of sleep apnoea appliance used to treat sleep apnoea and the severity of your condition are determining factors of the cost of treatment. Our dentists will be able to give you an accurate breakdown of the cost when you come in for a consultation. You can also explore the payment plans we offer when you come in for your consultation. Our friendly team will be happy to talk you through the options available.