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Sleep Apnoea (Obstructive)

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep Apnoea is a serious disorder that involves the partial or complete blockage of airways during sleep. Breathing can stop for periods of between ten to sixty seconds and blood oxygen levels fall. A person is briefly woken up when the brain registers the lack of breathing to open the airway, and the rhythm returns back to the normal cycle.

You may not necessarily be aware you have sleep apnoea, but your bed partner may!
 

Sleep Apnoea Symptoms

Snoring is most commonly associated with sleep apnoea. Those who snore may not have sleep apnoea, but if it is combined with gasping or choking sounds during sleep, it is likely to be sleep apnoea.

Other symptoms include:

  • Episodes of no breathing
  • Daytime fatigue or lethargy
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Mood and behaviour changes
  • Frequent need of urination at night

 

Risk factors of Sleep Apnoea

The two factors that suggest you are at risk of sleep apnoea is if you are middle age and overweight or obese. Other factors include:

  • Family history of sleep apnoea
  • Certain abnormalities of the face – large tonsils or adenoids, recessed chin, large neck circumference
  • Excessive alcohol consumption and use of sedatives

 

Treatment of Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea BondiThere are many methods to treat different degrees of sleep apnoea:

  • Oral appliances – mild to moderate
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – severe – a small mask worn over the mouth and, or nose that gently pumps air through the throat to prevent the airway from closing
  • Surgical solutions

 
Oral appliances (or a mouthguard) will reposition the lower jaw forward during sleep, opening the airways wider to allow for normal breathing and preventing snoring. It is suitable for patients suffering from a mild or moderate case of sleep apnoea and will only need to be worn at night.

If fitted correctly by your dentist, it should be comfortable. People may initially feel tenderness with their teeth or discomfort at the back of the jaw. People may also find saliva building up quickly in the mouth, but these symptoms will ease with continual use. Changes may occur in your bite, tooth movement, or muscles and joints of the jaw over time, so it is very important to have regular check-ups with your dentist to detect problems and deal with them as early as possible.

 

FAQs

Do I have sleep apnoea?

The best person to observe you is a family member or your bed partner. They can look for signs of:

  • Frequent disruptive snoring
  • Periodic stops in breathing
  • Body movements during sleep

 

Is obstructive sleep apnoea dangerous? What are the consequences?

Definitely. Sleep apnoea is linked with a large number of health problems:

  • Cardiovascular disease – it can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and cardiac rhythm disturbances.
  • Insomnia – if left untreated, the recurring awakenings can result in difficulty maintaining sleep.
  • Quality of life – long periods of poor sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, as well as affecting personal relationships, study and work performances.

 

What causes sleep apnoea?

  • Age – the muscles tones in your throat will narrow and decrease as you approach middle age.
  • Sleeping on your back – your tongue may drop back
  • Swollen tonsils or adenoids in children

 

How can sleep apnoea affect your health?

Your body increases its effort to breathe as your organs struggle for oxygen with the occurrence of sleep apnoea. The brain is continually alerted to wake up from sleep which can lead to unpleasant tiredness. Excessive daytime sleepiness is a leading symptom of sleep apnoea and it affects your lifestyle significantly.

 

What should I do if I think I have sleep apnoea?

If you have even the slightest doubt or concern, you should consult your doctor or dentist immediately to discuss how to deal with the possibilities of sleep apnoea. Doctors may not necessarily be able to diagnose you during one visit. They may encourage you to take a sleep apnoea test. Your doctor may further refer you to a sleep physician.
 

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