Sleep apnoea, also recognised as obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA, materialises when the throat muscles become too relaxed during slumber.
When afflicted with sleep apnoea, your throat walls will contract as you take in breaths while asleep. As the air attempts to traverse through this constricted passageway, vibrations are triggered within tissues at the back of your throat – these sounds are called snoring. In the case of severe obstructive sleep apnea, the passage may become reduced so much that little or no oxygen can reach your lungs (hypopnea), or it could even shut off completely and obstruct all airflow into them (apnoea).
Symptoms of sleep apnoea
Some of the symptoms of sleep apnoea include:
- Too little quality sleep with regular intervals of shallow or complete lack of breathing, accompanied by loud snoring and gasping for air.
- Persistent exhaustion and sleepiness throughout the day.
- Diminished attention, unreliable recollection and delayed response times.
- Irritability and mood changes.
- Anxiety and depressed state of mind.
- The inability to sustain an erection (erectile dysfunction) and suboptimal desire for sex (libido).
- Frequent need to urinate at night.
What causes sleep apnoea?
Contributing factors for sleep apnoea include:
- Excessive weight can result in a narrowing of the throat due to fat being deposited internally around the neck.
- As we age, our throat muscles become laxer while sleeping, making us more prone to snoring.
- Consumption of alcohol leads to the relaxation of your throat muscles while you sleep, which can cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea and snoring.
- Some medical conditions, such as an inadequate output of the thyroid gland.
- Certain drugs, such as sedatives and sleeping pills.
- Blocked sinuses and airways.
- Facial bone structure and the dimensions of muscles.
Diagnosis of sleep apnoea
If you think that you or a loved one is experiencing sleep apnoea symptoms, please consult with your GP for an assessment. After the examination, if found to be necessary, a referral may be made to see a sleep specialist and depending on their evaluation, an overnight sleep study could take place.
Through a sleep study, medical professionals can identify and diagnose various types of sleeping disorders, such as apnoea. Moreover, these tests observe how an individual behaves during their slumber period. Generally, most sleep studies consider the following:
- signals from the brain
- levels of oxygen in the blood
- the movement of limbs and position of sleep
- The rate of heart
- breathing and snoring pattern
During a sleep study, you’ll be hooked up to a portable machine with monitoring leads attached to your body to monitor your sleeping patterns during the night. These tests can be done from home or by taking an overnight stay at either a private or public health service clinic.
Treatment for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a manageable medical issue and can be treated with lifestyle changes, surgery or the correction of any related conditions like hypothyroidism or large tonsils. With the right care plan in place, sufferers will be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep once again!
Lifestyle changes for sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea can be managed and reduced by making certain lifestyle changes. These include:
- For individuals who are overweight or obese, transforming your physique through weight loss may not only enhance the effects of sleep apnoea but also remedy it entirely. What’s more, there are numerous additional health advantages associated with slimming down.
- Abstaining from alcohol consumption can be a beneficial step in your overall health journey.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device
To treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most successful solution is Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a mask that you wear at night which produces increased air pressure to stop your throat from collapsing.
Besides CPAP, lifestyle changes can also be effective in managing symptoms of OSA.
CPAP is the most widespread treatment for sleep apnea, which involves a small pump connected to tubing that pumps air through a nose or mouth mask.
The airflow pressure prevents throat muscles from collapsing when you relax during sleep; thus, it keeps your airway open and unrestricted. To ensure successful CPAP therapy, find one that fits your individual needs perfectly.
If you suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnoea, an excellent remedy is a custom-made oral appliance like a mandibular advancement splint (MAS). This dental device relieves people with obstructive sleep apnoea and other related disorders.
These handy mouthpieces are tailor-made for each individual by a trained dentist and worn every night while sleeping. Not only do they provide relief from snoring, but these innovative devices also help to create more space in the throat so that it does not collapse during sleep.
If you’re the type of person who unknowingly tosses and turns in their sleep, you may be at an increased risk for developing obstructive sleep apnoea if sleeping on your back. To help avoid this issue, consider attaching something to yourself during slumber – such as a tennis ball sewn into a T-shirt or pyjama top – that will prevent you from rolling onto your back while asleep. Additionally, there are several reliable commercial products available through CPAP suppliers that can assist with avoiding this problem too.
Upper airway surgery
When other treatments for sleep apnea have been unsuccessful, surgery to the palate and base of the tongue may be suggested as an alternative option – particularly for school-age children and young adults. Upper airway surgery has a clear purpose: it helps improve airflow throughout the night by opening up blocked passages in your throat, ensuring sounder sleeping patterns.
By taking out excess tissue from the throat, more space is created in an attempt to reduce obstruction while sleeping. It’s worth noting that there are restrictions on how much can be removed, and it may not always prevent the collapse of breathing passages during sleep. Therefore, only a specialist ear, nose, and throat surgeon (otolaryngologist) should perform such surgery due to its delicate nature.
Your care team will answer all your queries so you might make informed decisions about any health benefits this procedure could bring for you.
If you are not getting the restful sleep that your body needs, it can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Snoring, bruxism, TMJ disorders, and sleep apnoea can all make it difficult to get adequate shut-eye. Fortunately, Dr Damian Teo at Melbourne Dental Sleep Clinic has employed oral appliance therapy to help those suffering from these conditions attain their much-deserved tranquillity. Picture this — waking up each morning feeling recharged with an abundance of energy for whatever life throws in your direction. Contact us now to book your appointment.
Obstructive sleep apnea