If you snore loudly and often, you know the social implications of your problem. Even if you have become accustomed to middle of the night elbow thrusts and bad jokes, snoring is no laughing matter. It is a signal that something is wrong with your breathing during sleep. It means that the airway is not fully open and a noise is being produced from your efforts to force air through narrowed passageways.
Perhaps 1 in every 10 adults snore and for most, snoring has no serious medical consequences. For 1 in 100 persons unfortunately, habitual snoring is the first indication of a potentially life threatening disorder called “Obstructive Sleep Apnoea”.
WHAT IS SLEEP APNOEA?
An apnoea is when there is an absence of breath for 10 seconds or more. If someone stops breathing like this for 30 or more times during a normal 7 hour sleep period, they are diagnosed as having Sleep Apnoea.
When these interruptions of breathing occur, oxygen in the blood drops causing your blood pressure to rise and your heart to work harder. Over time, these episodes of apnoea can even be associated with hypertension, stroke, gastroesophageal reflex, frequent nocturnal voiding, susceptibility to atherosclerosis, and stroke or cardiopulmonary problems that can lead to sudden death.
Regardless of the treatment plan, most people benefit from the following general measures:
Diet if you are overweight;
Get regular exercise;
Avoid alcohol prior to going to sleep;
Avoid sleeping pills;
Only take over the counter medications that have been approved by your physician;
Sleep on your side;
Keep the bedroom only as a place to sleep.
Nasal CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) – The patient wears a mask over his/her nose and the airway is kept open by using a compressor that gently forces air through the nasal passages.
Surgery – Sometimes physical abnormalities like enlarged tonsils, nasal polyps, a deviated nasal septum, and malformations of the jaw or palate can be for snoring and apnoea. There are numerous surgical techniques, which are available to help correct these defects.
DENTAL APPLIANCE THERAPY
Dental appliances have been shown to be very successful in the treatment of snoring and are also regularly used in both the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive apnoea. Dental appliances offer several advantages over other therapy choices. They are inexpensive, non-invasive, easy to fabricate, reversible, and quite well accepted by patients.
The basic indications for dental sleep appliances are to treat primary snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleeps apnoea. Appliances are particularly appropriate for those patients who cannot tolerate CPAP, when surgery is contraindicated or the patient is unwilling to go through a surgical procedure.
A SLEEP QUIZ
We recommend that you discuss these questions with your family members and co-workers, as they may be the first to recognise these signs.
I have been told that I snore.
I have been told that I snore loudly, every night, in all positions.
I have been told that I stop breathing while I sleep.
I have jolted awake gasping for breath during the night.
After a full night’s sleep, I still wake up feeling tired.
I fall asleep at inappropriate times, for example, at work or behind the wheel of a car.
I have trouble concentrating.
I have become unusually forgetful.
People say, or I feel, I have become uncharacteristically irritable, anxious or depressed.
I often wake up with a headache.
I have high blood pressure.
I am overweight.
I seem to have lost my sex drive.
IF YOU CAN ANSWER YES TO ANY OF THESE STATEMENTS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR DENTIST OR PHYSICIAN ABOUT SNORING AND SLEEP APNOEA.