Sleep apnoea (sleep apnea in the US) is a potentially life threatening disorder where actual breathing stops during sleep.
The disorder has a number of risk factors, including obesity and increasing age. The disorder can occur in men or women, but is more common in men.
If you think you may have sleep apnoea, it is important to see your dentist. Sleep apnoea can be a serious condition, and it is important to get treatment and/or have a sleep study through a sleep specialist.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
obstructive sleep apnoea is when your breathing is disrupted during sleep due to a blockage in your airway. This blockage can be caused by the collapse of soft tissue in the back of your throat, excessive weight gain, or enlarged tonsils.
Obstructive sleep apnoea can be broadly separated into mild, moderate and severe.
- Mild apnoea is when the events last less than 10 seconds and happen fewer than 5 times an hour.
- Moderate apnoea is when the events last between 10-20 seconds and happen more than 5 but fewer than 15 times an hour.
- Severe apnoea is when the events last longer than 20 seconds and occur more than 15 times an hour
Central sleep apnoea
Central sleep apnoea is when your breathing is interrupted during sleep due to a problem with the way your brain signals your muscles to breathe. This type of apnoea is less common than obstructive sleep apnoea and is more likely to occur if you have heart failure, use certain medications, or experience a stroke.
Mixed sleep apnoea
mixed sleep apnoea is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnoea. This type of apnoea is less common than either central or obstructive sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea symptoms
The most common symptom of sleep apnoea is loud snoring. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnoea. Other sleep apnoea symptoms include
- waking up gasping for air
- high blood pressure
- sleepy or falling asleep during the day
There are a number of treatments for sleep apnoea. These include
- weight loss– if you are obese, losing weight can help to reduce the severity of your sleep apnoea
- changing your sleep position– sleeping on your side or stomach can help to keep your airway open
- avoiding alcohol and smoking– alcohol and cigarettes can relax the muscles in your throat and make sleep apnoea worse
- A continuous positive airway pressure machine – these devices help to keep your airway open while you sleep
- surgery– in some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove excess tissue from your throat or to widen your airway.
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