Signs I Have Sleep Apnoea
Do you regularly wake up feeling like you’ve barely slept? Wake up frequently at night? Struggle to concentrate or get through the day awake? Maybe you have a persistent jaw pain that you can’t pinpoint, but never seems to go away? Do you snore?
These are just some of the most common signs of a condition known as sleep apnoea.
What is sleep apnoea? How does it affect you? Let’s find out.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder wherein the soft tissues of the throat close, blocking off the airways. The airways can be blocked for up to 90 seconds at a time. The person then usually awakes, adjusts their position, and goes straight back to sleep.
This process can then repeat hundreds of times — in a single night.
What Causes Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea occurs when the soft tissues of the throat relax and block off the airway.
Common causes of sleep apnoea include:
- Being overweight
- Alcohol consumption
- Heart disorders
- Narcotic pain medication
- Nasal congestion
- Certain medical conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and more
Sleep apnoea can affect anyone at any age, but is most common in older males.
How is Sleep Apnoea Diagnosed?
The only way to get a proper diagnosis of sleep apnoea is to get a sleep study. This involves sleeping in a medical facility under supervision. The number of times your airways close and reopen will be monitored, and a formal diagnosis can be made.
Is Sleep Apnoea Dangerous?
While the process of the airway blocking off at night might seem scary, the brain is usually very good at noticing the loss of air and waking you up. You are very unlikely to suffocate during sleep apnoea without additional complications being present.
That said, there are many health complications associated with sleep apnoea.
- Daytime fatigue is the most immediate concern. You might not think being sleepy during the day is much of a health problem, but it can have serious effects. People who have sleep apnoea are 5 times more likely to get into a car accident than those without, for example. Depression, anger issues, and poor concentration can all be caused by lack of sleep induced by sleep apnoea.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The constant fluctuation of blood oxygen levels increases blood pressure and puts higher strain on the cardiovascular system. Sleep apnoea can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and abnormal heartbeats.
- Increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome, a condition involving high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar and increased waist circumference, is linked to sleep apnoea.
- Increases risk of complication from surgery or medication.
- Increases risk of liver problems.
How Can a Dentist Help with Sleep Apnoea?
There are several treatments available to combat sleep apnoea. The two most common are a Mandibular Advancement Splint, and a device known as a CPAP machine.
A CPAP machine is the gold standard. CPAP stands for Constant Positive Airway Pressure, and the device works by feeding air into the airway to prevent the soft tissues from closing. The machine contains three parts — a mask, an air pump, and a tube to connect them.
CPAP machines can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear. While they’re necessary for severe obstructive sleep apnoea, patients with mild to moderate sleep apnoea have an alternative:
Mandibular Advancement Splints.
A Mandibular Advancement Splint is a custom-made device a patient wears in their sleep. It resembles a mouthguard, but with a bracket that prevents the upper and lower jaw from moving while you sleep. By keeping the jaw locked into an ideal forward position, the soft tissues of the throat can’t collapse and block off the airway.
These devices are significantly more comfortable than a CPAP machine, and cheaper. For patients with mild to moderate sleep apnoea, they’re the ideal solution for a good night’s sleep.