What is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)?
Normal snoring happens when there's an obstruction in the throat or nasal passages during sleep. The tissues of your nose, mouth or throat vibrate when you breathe in and out, creating the snoring sound.
OSA occurs when the airways are blocked completely, restricting your breathing. The body responds by making the throat muscles spasm to clear the blockage and resume normal breathing. This can have the effect of waking you up with a start and gasping for breath.
Interruptions in sleep can last between 10 seconds and one minute each time. It's considered normal for sleep to be disturbed up to five times per hour, but more frequent interruptions can indicate mild sleep apnoea. More than 30 interruptions per hour is considered severe sleep apnoea, with some people's sleep being disturbed hundreds of times per night.
OSA is always a cause for concern, as it can have serious and long-term effects on health and wellbeing.
What are the signs and symptoms of OSA?
You might have obstructive sleep apnoea if you have some of the following common symptoms:
- loud, intermittent snoring
- waking up gasping or choking
- heartburn during the night
- need to urinate frequently at night
- headache or dry mouth in the morning
- tiredness and fatigue in the daytime
- poor memory or concentration
- irritability, depression or other mood changes
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- gastro-oesophageal reflux (GORD)
- teeth grinding (bruxism)
- weight gain
- low sex drive or impotence
- bed wetting (in children)
If you or someone in your family has several of these symptoms, you should book a consultation with your doctor or dentist to get a diagnosis and discuss appropriate treatment options.
At Sailors Bay Dentistry, our dentists are experienced in spotting possible signs of sleep problems. We may also refer you to a sleep specialist to complete an overnight sleep study that should give us the information we need to help us create your personalised treatment plan.
Call (02) 9958 0400 to arrange a consultation with our dentists or discuss your options for snoring treatment in Northbridge, Sydney.
What causes sleep apnoea?
OSA can affect people of all ages, including children, but it's more common in men over the age of 30. Some risk factors are unavoidable, while others may be managed by giving up bad habits or making other changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk.
You're more likely to experience sleep apnoea if:
- you're overweight, as excess fat tissue can block the airways
- you have large tonsils, large adenoids or a narrow throat that can block more easily
- you have nasal congestion, which may be caused by a sinus infection
- you're a smoker or drink alcohol shortly before sleep, which relaxes the throat muscles
- you have certain health conditions such as reduced thyroid production
- you're taking certain medications such as sedatives or sleeping pills
If we can determine the probable cause of your OSA, this will help our dentists to recommend a treatment for snoring that addresses the root cause as well as your symptoms.
Why is sleep apnoea treatment important?
A good night's sleep is vital for overall health and wellbeing. If your sleep is disturbed frequently, you'll spend less time in the state of deep sleep that's important for helping your mind and body to feel rested. This can have serious knock-on effects during the day, which can become worse if you continue to sleep poorly every night.
If you feel tired and have trouble concentrating, you'll be at higher risk of accidents that could lead to serious injuries or even death, especially if you're operating a vehicle or machinery. Severe OSA is also linked to an increased risk of health problems including high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
The longer OSA is left untreated, the longer your health will be at risk. OSA can also affect the health and wellbeing of other people you live with if they're disturbed by your snoring or choking at night. You should talk to a dentist or other health professional as soon as possible if you think that you or someone in your family might be at risk.