Snoring is a noise that is produced when air passes through relaxed tissue at the back of the throat. Snoring is not, apart from the social problems, a cause for medical concern. However it may be a warning sign that there is an underlying serious problem called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

Obstructive sleep apnoea manifests itself at night, when a child or adult is sleeping.

At night the muscles relax, the tongue and soft palate collapses onto the back of the throat and block the upper airway causing air flow to stop. This causes oxygen levels to drop low enough in the blood so that the brain moves out of deep sleep and the sleep is lightened.

When you stop breathing, the brain becomes distressed so it produces adrenaline which quickens the heart beat and raises blood pressure. To restart breathing, the chest heaves to try to force the body to restore muscle tone to allow air into the lungs.

At this time you may wake up choking or may simply wake momentarily and fall back to sleep. Without being aware this cycle repeats itself throughout the night, disrupting sleep and preventing the individual getting a continuous flow of oxygen.

This type of sleep is unrestorative. You may think you have slept all night but wake unrefreshed and feel tired all day. The combination of low oxygen and fragmented sleep contribute too many ill effects in the sleep apnoea patient. Sleep apnoea is a form of intermittent suffocation and has been linked to serious health related conditions such as stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity.

The causes and risk factors of sleep apnoea are:

  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • Nasal blockage
  • Physical attributes such as deviated septum, the shape of the head and neck, a receding chin or enlarged tongue
  • Being overweight

SnoringThe signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea are:

  • Excessive day time tiredness
  • Snoring
  • Restlessness during sleep
  • Frequent waking or insomnia. Especially waking with gasping or choking
  • Gastro oesophageal reflux
  • Frequent trips to the toilet at night
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pain in the jaw joints or aching in the face
  • Headaches
  • Tooth sensitivity or wear due to grinding and clenching
  • Anxiety or mood problems
  • Memory difficulties and difficulty working effectively
  • In children, sleep apnoea is being recognised as contributing to attention and behaviour problems, such as irritability: hyperactivity

What can be done if you suspect you have sleep apnoea:

If sleep apnoea is suspected, a home sleep study will be recommended. This will generally be referred by your Doctor. A specialist will assess the results of the study; Paul will further analyse the results and explain them in detail to you. You may also require a CT scan, done at the local radiography clinic, to check for any nasal blockages, joint deterioration or other problems.

Depending on the results of the study, treatment will be suggested.

There are three treatments for sleep apnoea:

  1. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
  2. Surgery
  3. Oral Appliances

CPAP is a very effective treatment for sleep apnoea but many people find long term compliance a problem as it can be difficult to sleep with a mask on and it is noisy.

Surgery may be effective in suitable individuals.

Oral appliances can be a simple and effective way to treat sleep apnoea. It usually takes some time to become used to wearing the appliance, but after this period, most people have no problems. The appliance is designed to position the lower jaw forward and prevent the collapse of soft tissues that obstruct the airway.

If you have a sleep problem, it is important that it is correctly diagnosed. It is not appropriate to fit an oral appliance without correctly diagnosing the nature of the sleep related problem.

Paul has done a lot of study in the area of sleep medicine.  He is able to correctly diagnose, and in consultation with you, develop a treatment plan to address your complaint.