Snoring isn’t just a minor annoyance. For millions of people it is a serious problem, both for the person snoring and anyone else trying to sleep. The type of snoring that rattles the windows is probably a condition known as sleep apnoea, which is a serious medical problem.
Around half the population snore occasionally, with a quarter snoring regularly, but sleep apnoea affects more people than we like to think.
What is sleep apnoea?
In layman’s terms, sleep apnoea is a condition which stops people from breathing during their sleep.
It sounds serious, and it is.
Loud snoring is just a symptom of a more serious overall ailment. People with sleep apnoea either take in shallow breaths during periods of sleep, or stop breathing altogether for a period of time.
With little or no air flowing through your lungs, there is a drop in blood oxygen levels. This is called hypoxia, and this signals your brain to disrupt your sleep, making you suddenly gasp for air.
This constant battle between sleeping and waking means you never get a good, deep sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnoea are constantly tired, and this brings its own set of problems.
What causes it?
When we sleep, our body relaxes. The muscles in our throat also relax and the airways narrow, increasing the air pressure to the point where it vibrates the soft tissue around it. These vibrations are what cause normal snoring.
For those suffering from sleep apnoea, the muscles at the back of the throat become so relaxed they block off the airway completely.
This can affect anyone, regardless of age or sex, but toddlers and middle-aged men are most at risk. Sleep apnoea affects toddlers because they can sometimes have tonsils that are too large for their throat. Middle-aged men tend to be overweight, and the excess weight on the outside of the throat causes pressure on the inside.
About half those affected by the condition are overweight.
What are the risks?
The biggest problems from sleep apnoea are with daytime fatigue. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, otherwise everything becomes more difficult.
It is during REM sleep that your brain creates new neural pathways, helping you process the day and get ready for tomorrow. Your body also releases growth hormones during sleep, and produces proteins which help repair damage.
Lack of sleep means chronic tiredness, and this is when driving and operating machinery can become dangerous. Every year thousands of accidents, both at home, in the workplace and on the roads, are caused by lack of sleep.
Memory loss, trouble concentrating, headaches, shortness of temper… these are all things associated with sleep deprivation.
High blood pressure
If you already have high blood pressure, then sleep apnoea can make things worse. When your blood oxygen levels drop, this triggers stress hormones, which in turn raises blood pressure.
Sleep apnoea may increase the risk of recurrent heart attack, and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation. The sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur increase strain on the cardiovascular system.
If there’s an underlying heart problem, these multiple episodes of low blood oxygen can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.
An angry spouse
Let’s not forget our partners in this!
There’s a real sense of guilt in not letting a loved one get enough sleep. Many marriages have broken up because of a partner’s snoring, with some cases going down an even uglier path.
How can it be treated?
SDAI offer the very latest in sleep apnoea treatments:
Mild – Moderate Cases
For mild to moderate sleep apnoea, we have dental devices such as a mandibular advancement device. This opens your airway by bringing your lower jaw, tongue and associated soft tissue forward during sleep, allowing you to breathe.
For more severe sleep apnoea, the most common device involves a mask, tubes and a fan. Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is a device which uses air pressure to maintain a continuous motion, allowing air to pass unobstructed.
This mask is worn whenever you sleep, even for short naps. The technology for these masks has come a long way in recent years, and they are now smaller, lighter and quieter than before.
For extreme cases, sleep apnoea can also be treated surgically. Currently, the costs and success rates associated with surgery can differ considerably, and success is not guaranteed.
Talk to us and research your options carefully before going through any lengthy, painful, and costly procedures.
We look for ways to heal not only your mouth but your whole body. Our holistic approach to treatments helps us to treat not only the symptoms but any underlying causes as well.
If you suffer from sleep apnoea, we will try our best to discover why, and treat the cause, not the symptom.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our friendly staff members will be happy to help in any way they can.