Many people snore when they sleep, but did you realise that snoring is sometimes a sign of sleep apnoea?

What Is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder, where your airway becomes partially or entirely obstructed during sleep. As you fall asleep, the muscles in your throat relax, allowing your airway to collapse inwards and creating an obstruction. People with sleep apnoea often cease breathing for several seconds, sometimes hundreds of times a night. When the brain realises it isn’t receiving enough oxygen, it prompts the body to restart breathing, often with a loud snort or gasp. During these episodes, you might partially awaken, but not enough to realise what’s happening. However, because you do partially awaken it prevents you from receiving enough deep REM sleep, and people with sleep apnoea frequently wake up feeling excessively tired.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea can cause a range of symptoms. One of the most common signs is loud snoring that is interrupted by frequent pauses in breathing and gasping for air during sleep. You may wake up with a dry mouth or a chronic headache. People with sleep apnoea can have difficulty staying asleep and will suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness. Not surprisingly, a lack of sleep can increase irritability and makes it more difficult to pay attention during the day.

If any of these signs sound familiar, or if a sleeping partner has complained about your snoring, it is worth seeking a proper diagnosis because untreated sleep apnoea can affect your health.

Potential Health Problems of Untreated Sleep Apnoea

The lack of sleep affects your performance during the daytime and can increase the risk of accidents when driving or operating machinery. The changes in blood oxygen levels place pressure on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart problems or stroke. The risk of Type II diabetes is higher, as is the risk of metabolic syndrome, a disorder that encompasses several different health problems. These problems include high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, a higher risk of heart disease and high blood sugar.

Who Is More at Risk of Developing Sleep Apnoea?

Your risk of developing sleep apnoea is higher if you are over age 40 and especially if you are male. Being overweight or obese makes it more likely that your throat muscles will collapse inwards when they relax during sleep. Sleep apnoea is more likely in people who have larger tonsils, smaller jaws or a large tongue, or who have a family history of sleep apnoea. People with GERD can have a higher risk of sleep apnoea.

How Is Sleep Apnoea Treated?

Mild to moderate sleep apnoea is often easily treated with a comfortable, custom-made night splint fabricated by our dentists here at Lethbridge Dental Clinic. The night splint holds your lower jaw slightly forward, preventing your tongue from falling backwards, helping to keep your airway open during sleep. More severe sleep apnoea is treated with a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) machine, consisting of a small mask that pumps pressurised air into your airway during sleep. This treatment is prescribed by a sleep physician.

If you or a loved one snore or gasps for air frequently during sleep, book a consultation with one of our dentists today and look forward to a peaceful night’s sleep once more.

Don’t compromise your sleep anymore. Schedule your initial consultation today.