Sleep Apnoea

Sleep ApnoeaOf every ten Australian adults, two will experience snoring during their lifetime. Snoring usually causes no significant medical problem. However for some people, snoring may indicate a more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (pronounced ap-nee-ah).

During normal breathing, air is drawn through the nose and past soft tissues at the back of the throat. These tissues include the uvula, the soft palate and the tongue. During waking hours, the airways are held open by the tone of the muscles around them. During sleep, these muscles relax. In some people, the soft tissues may relax too much (or collapse), leading to obstruction of the airways.

People who have obstructive sleep apnoea almost always snore loudly and usually have a number of other symptoms, including: choking or gasping during sleep, tiredness on waking, sore, dry throat on waking, morning headache, excessive daytime sleepiness, poor concentration or memory deterioration.

Proper diagnosis of the cause of sleep apnoea is essential so that the most appropriate treatment can be offered. People with symptomatic snoring should be assessed in a sleep disorder clinic before any treatment starts.

Obstructive sleep apnoea can be harmful to health and may ultimately lead to life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heat disease or an increase in blood pressure. The use of specialized mouthpieces known as oral appliances can be an effective method of treating both snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Oral appliances are fitted by a dentist who is trained in their use, usually in consultation with a respiratory or sleep-disorder physician.