You are here
What Is Snoring and Sleep Apnoea?
Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Explained:
As the name suggests, sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a range of conditions which adversely impact on a person’s ability to breathe normally while asleep.
A staggering 1 in 3 adults suffers from some form of SDB. Even mild SDB cases, such as snoring, are loud, clear signals the airflow of an SDB sufferer is impaired.
Any degree of impairment is unhealthy.
SDB is most often caused by the soft tissue of the upper airway (namely the tongue mass, the soft palate and uvula, and the pharyngeal walls) losing tension over time, or bulking up with fatty deposits, and consequently intruding into the airway.
This is particularly so when the person is asleep or deeply relaxed when there is little or no conscious control of the tissues.
In more severe SDB cases, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, the sufferer literally stops breathing while they sleep – often hundreds of times each night. As you’d expect, the person’s sleep quality is severely reduced, blood oxygen levels fall, and the heart works harder to compensate.
Sleep apnoea can be mild (5 to 15 breathing stoppages per hour), moderate (15 to 30 breathing stoppages per hour) or severe (over 30 stoppages per hour). Each breathing stoppage lasts for at least 10 seconds, with many lasting much longer.
As blood oxygen levels fall, the body’s sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight reflex) will ultimately trigger an alert and wake the patient to get them breathing again. Unfortunately, this arousal is so brief the sufferer usually has no recollection of having woken.
They simply gasp awake, take a breath and fall back to sleep immediately.
As a result, many SDB sufferers wake feeling tired each morning – when, in reality, they should be feeling most refreshed. Significantly, because the sufferer does not recall the many ‘micro arousals’ which occurred after each apnoeic event.
They wake up thinking “I have just had a full night's sleep. Why am I still feeling so tired?”
The answer, of course, is they did not have a full period of deep, restorative sleep.
Instead, they effectively had hundreds of short naps throughout the night, never reaching the important deeper levels of sleep.
Treating SDB ensures the patient’s upper airway is kept open, allowing the person to breathe normally and healthily throughout the night.
The Effects of Snoring and Sleep Apnoea:
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) has been scientifically linked to a wide range of serious negative consequences.
This is definitely a condition which should be treated rather than tolerated.
For a start, there are many negative impacts on general well-being such as:
- waking unrefreshed
- daytime sleepiness
- poor concentration
- metabolic retardation and consequent weight gain
- reduced libido
- acid reflux
- frequent night time urination
- high blood pressure
- constant tiredness and much more
Not surprisingly, work performance and relationships often suffer as a consequence.
In more serious cases, or when the condition has gone untreated for a length of time, much more serious conditions are seen.
Sleep apnoea, in particular, is linked to Type 2 diabetes, obesity (largely because of the retarded metabolism caused by the SDB), ischaemic heart disease, stroke, clinical hypertension, impotence, depression, and numerous other conditions.
SDB conditions are extremely unlikely to resolve by themselves, and the longer the condition persists, the more damage or harm is done.
Treatment for Snoring and Sleep Apnoea:
Professional treatment of Sleep Disordered Breathing begins with a diagnostic sleep study (otherwise known as a polysomnogram or PSG). The diagnostic recorder is worn overnight while you sleep, and records:
- brain activity (including levels of sleep/consciousness)
- cardiac activity
- breathing patterns and stoppages
- blood oxygen levels
- the number and duration of each apnoeic event
- the number of ‘arousals’
- limb movements
- sleeping position and other key factors
The recorded data is then reviewed by a qualified sleep scientist and specialist sleep physician. The physician diagnoses the nature and severity of any condition and prescribes an appropriate form of treatment.
At Sleep Clinic Services we make the sleep study process much easier for you.
Instead of traveling to a hospital or sleep clinic, you'll be assigned one of our professional Sleep Therapists who will dispatch a diagnostic recorder to your home address, then talk you through the set-up process before bed.
Apart from the privacy, convenience and comfort which a home-based sleep study offers, your normal sleep environment (on your own bed, with your own pillow, in your own environment, etc) generally produces a recording which is much more reflective of your typical nights’ sleep.
Patients who undergo hospital or sleep clinic-based studies often complain they did not experience anything like a typical night’s sleep – which obviously reduces the reliability of the recorded data, diagnosis, and treatment.
For mild SDB conditions, Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) can sometimes be used.
This form of therapy involves the use of a specialised appliance, something like an orthodontic splint, custom-made by a specially trained dentist.
The splint (commonly known as a mandibular advancement splint or MAS) is designed to hold the mandible (lower jaw) and connected tissue forward and clear of the airway.
If this form of treatment is required, your Sleep Therapist can refer you to a properly qualified OAT dentist.
For more serious conditions, positive airway pressurisation is the ‘gold standard’ for treatment.
Positive Airway Pressurisation (often referred to as constant positive airway pressurisation or CPAP) works by introducing gently pressurised air into the patient’s airway via a comfortable mask attached to a small pump.
Positive airway pressurisation does not breathe for the patient – it simply acts as an ‘air splint’ which holds the soft tissue in position and stops it from collapsing and blocking the airway.
If this form of treatment is prescribed, your Sleep Therapist can again take care of you in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Importantly, our Sleep Therapists will continue working with you until your breathing has been restored to normal, healthy patterns.
Some people dislike the idea of having to use CPAP and convince themselves they could not tolerate it, but our Sleep Therapists are experts at arranging perfect, comfortable fittings. Countless patients have now been successfully treated with airway pressurisation therapy – and few, if any, would choose to stop using this wonderfully effective treatment method.
In some cases, surgical intervention is required – although this is generally considered a treatment of last resort because the procedures are painful, non reversible, not always effective and may even prevent the effective use of other forms of treatment at a later date.
Typically, surgery will only be recommended if there are significant obstructions in the oral or nasal cavity, such as enlarged tonsils or turbinates in the nasal passages. When this form of treatment is required, Sleep Clinic Services can refer you to an expert ENT surgeon who can help.
Book an In-Home Sleep Study:
Arranging a diagnostic sleep study has never been easier.
Instead of needing to travel to and spend a night in a hospital-based or sleep lab environment, one of our professional Sleep Therapists can help you do a full diagnostic sleep study in the comfort, privacy, and convenience of your own home.
Apart from the convenience, doing a home sleep study means a 'typical' night's sleep is recorded - which makes the sleep physician's diagnosis more accurate.
Contact us now by calling 1300 246 637 or by submitting a confidential email using the contact form below, and a friendly Sleep Therapist will be in touch to arrange your in-home sleep study as soon as possible.
Unsure whether you need a full diagnostic sleep study? Click the blue link to complete a personal Sleep Self Assessment Questionnaire today ... Cost and obligation free.
Download a Sleep Study Referral Form