Snoring is something most of us are familiar with in one way or another. Either we do it ourselves, or we know of someone that does. While snoring in itself is not a major medical concern it is often the warning sign of a more serious underlying health issue called Obstructive Sleep Apneoa (OSA). Snoring can be likened to the “thunder”, it is noisy but harmless. However, Obstructive Sleep Apneoa is the “lighting” resulting in a 7- fold higher risk of death due to heart attacks and stroke.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apneoa

Obstructive Sleep Apneoa results in repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the throat/upper airway due to the relaxation of the tongue and airway. It is commonly associated with snoring. It can occur at any age and in children, it is often associated with enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

When partial or complete obstruction occurs, breathing is reduced or stops completely for a short time, this can be for 10 seconds or even up to a minute or more. This results in an immediate drop in blood oxygen levels, which causes the heart to have to work harder. This obstruction is usually followed by a brief interruption to sleep known as an arousal. These episodes can continue up to hundreds of time throughout the night, preventing suffers from getting the required deep levels of sleep needed for growth and repair of cells.

Common symptoms include; waking up during night gasping or choking, waking with dry, irritated throat, waking unrefreshed, general daytime tiredness and lack of concentration.

Obstructive sleep apnoea has detrimental effects on sleep-quality and health, and increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, type-2 diabetes, depression, impotence, mood disorders and motor vehicle and industrial accidents.

Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apneoa

The current three most common treatments for OSA include:

PAP- (hose on the nose)- Very effective at treating sleep apnoea but long term compliance is a problem for some as it can be difficult to sleep with.

Surgery – can be quite effective in cases where it is suitable

Oral Appliance Therapy – is a simple and effective way to treat sleep apnoea. The appliance is designed to bring the lower jaw forward to help prevent the collapse and dropping back of the tongue when sleeping. It is best suited to those with good dental health and who do not have pre-existing jaw problems.

If you wish to find out more information on this topic or want to discuss this topic, please arrange an appointment with Dr Andrew Pham.