70% of people who regularly snore also have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in which the soft tissues in the throat, including the tongue, collapse against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops or is reduced. When the blood oxygen level becomes low enough the brain sends a signal known as an arousal and the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air starts again, usually with a gasp. This sequence of events can occur all throughout sleep with most people unaware this is occurring. This serious medical condition is associated with long-term health problems including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. When successfully treated, sufferers commonly report significant improvements in sleep, energy, quality of life, and their close relationships.
Dr David Cunnington, a sleep physician, and Dr Harry Ball from SleepWiseClinic discuss who are the best candidates for oral appliances
Custom fit oral appliances are generally regarded as the most comfortable option for treating sleep apnoea, with a variety of unique models offering features such as being able to speak, sip water and freely move the jaw. Oral appliances work by comfortably holding the jaw slightly forward, preventing the tongue and tissues at the back of the throat from collapsing into the airways. Learn more about the different types of oral appliances. CPAP is also regarded as an alternative treatment for sleep apnoea, which works by delivering air under pressure to keep the airways open.
The only way to be certain you have sleep apnoea is to do a diagnostic sleep study. One of the main purposes of the sleep study is not just to detect the presence of sleep apnoea but to determine the severity. The degree of severity of the sleep apnoea will help determine what is the best available treatment. Sleep apnoea is classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the number of disturbances to breathing per hour of sleep. Traditionally sleep studies were done during an overnight stay in a hospital. The equipment used in hospitals has been miniaturised and can now be used in the home with great accuracy and comfort. A sleep study done at home replicates your usual sleep in your usual environment and allows for a great deal more confidence in the results. We encourage you to take our Online Self-Assessment as the first step in determining the chance of you having sleep apnoea. You can also call Sleep Wise Clinic on 1300 101 505 or submit a contact form through our website to find more about our proven sleep apnoea solutions.
Surgery is not a common treatment for snoring and sleep apnoea. It involves trimming and tightening of soft tissues in the throat or moving the upper and lower jaws. Surgery is regarded as a last resort treatment, however it can be very effective in a select group of patients.
The CPAP machine works by delivering air under pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. The machine is attached to a mask by a hose which the patient wears during sleep. Those using the machine are required to wear the attached mask throughout the night. Oral appliances are an excellent alternative for people who cannot use the CPAP machine.
Many people have what’s known as positional sleep apnoea, whereby sleeping on the back is a key contributing factor. Elevating the head of your bed and avoiding sleeping on your back can be very helpful. We can help you with strategies to help you sleep on your side.
If you are overweight, weight reduction may improve your sleep apnoea. Weight gain deposits fat into and around the soft palate, tongue and neck structures consequently reducing the size of the airway. Weight loss can reduce these fat deposits and enlarge the airway size thereby reducing snoring. Although weight loss can be beneficial, it is usually insufficient as a treatment option to overcome all problematic sleep apnoea and snoring.
Alcohol and most sleeping pills relax the muscles of the throat and can worsen snoring and sleep apnoea. You should avoid alcohol for at least three hours prior to bedtime. Smoking and caffeine can also worsen snoring and sleep apnoea, due to swelling of the nasal and throat tissues.
Any form of nasal obstruction can worsen sleep apnoea and snoring. There are simple strategies for improving the nasal airway which can include the use of sprays, nasal cones or strips. While perhaps not offering a cure, these methods have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of the established treatments.