Sleep apnoea is a common sleeping disorder caused when your regular breathing is interrupted during sleep.
This may be either a partial, or total, temporary cessation in the ability to breathe. An apnoea event is classified as an obstruction of the airway for ten seconds or longer. Sleep apnoea is a serious medical condition, and should not be dismissed as “just” snoring or feeling tired during the day. It can severely affect your overall health and quality of life.
During a sleep apnoea episode, sufferers will either:
- Completely stop breathing (known as an apnoea), and/or
- Have their breathing severely restricted (a hypopnea)
These events can happen hundreds of times per night. During each breathing interruption cycle, the body is starved of vital oxygen and increases carbon dioxide (a waste product of breathing) levels in the blood. The lack of oxygen supply to the body signals the brain to “wake” the body to start breathing again.
What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnoea?
Not all people who snore have sleep apnoea, but most people who suffer from sleep apnoea will snore. Whilst snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnoea, sleep apnoea snoring is different from regular snoring.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA):
The most common type of sleep apnoea is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA occurs when the tongue, as well as the muscles and soft tissue at the back of the throat, relax during sleep. This causes them to collapse onto the airway, blocking the airway off. Luckily OSA is a treatable condition and for many patients the treatment may be as simple as wearing a dental appliance at night (which is also effective for the treatment of snoring).
Sleep apnoea symptoms:
A proper diagnosis of sleep apnoea requires a sleep study to be completed. However, sleep apnoea can impact your health in many ways, and common symptoms include: loud and persistent snoring during sleep, pauses in breathing during sleep accompanied by episodes of choking or gasping for air, excessive restlessness during the night, morning headaches, waking up feeling unrefreshed, and day-time sleepiness.
Dangers of sleep apnoea:
Sleep apnoea can severely affect your overall health and quality of life. Research suggests it may be a contributing factor in the development of many systemic health conditions, including: high blood pressure/ hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.
Dentist consultation and sleep study:
If you are concerned about your snoring or worried you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, the first step is to have an initial consultation with a dentist. You may be referred to a specialist to conduct a sleep study. After your sleep study is completed, results will be reviewed and treatment options will be discussed.
Sleep apnoea treatment:
There are three main treatment options for obstructive sleep apnoea. These are a dental appliance, a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine, or in some cases surgery by an ear, nose and throat specialist. The appropriate treatment will depend on the cause and severity of each individual’s condition.
For more information about sleep apnoea, please click here.