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Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a common and chronic sleep disorder that occurs when the walls of one’s throat partially, or completely block off the airway during sleep. Breathing can pause for up to 90 seconds, and this episode is called an apnoea. Each time, the apnoea deprives the body of oxygen and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. The brain then ‘wakes’ the body to start breathing again, due to the decrease of oxygen in the blood. For a patient with moderate or severe sleep apnoea, these episodes occur hundreds of times a night. This leads to a very interrupted and restless sleep for the patient.

The following diagram outlines the process of an apnoea during sleep.

Sleep apnoea is a common problem that effects a persons daily routine, often leaving them fatigued during the daytime as a result of an interrupted sleep. It is not uncommon for those with sleep apnoea to need to have a nap during the day, which effects ones work performance and levels of motivation, as well as having other cognitive and behavioural consequences.

Research confirms that approximately 25% of men, and 9% of women over the age of thirty in Australia have sleep apnoea. Obstructive sleep apnoea effects 4% of Australian men and women, largely due to high obesity rates. However, a large number of Australians still remain undiagnosed with sleep apnoea, as they do not know it is occurring during their sleep. Therefore, the condition often remains untreated.

Those with sleep apnoea almost always snore, however people who snore do not necessarily have sleep apnoea. Compared to sleep apnoea, snoring is simply a noise generated by a vibration during breathing. This is a result of a partly obstructed airway in the nose, throat, and mouth. Snoring is only a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea, and it is important a sleep specialist addresses issues accordingly.

Sleep apnoea can also lead to other health risks when left untreated. As a result of poor oxygenation, sleep apnoea distresses the cardiovascular system during sleep, and places pressure on the body during efforts to restart breathing. These include; diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other long-term health problems. Even mild sleep apnoea results in a 2.5% rise in a person’s mortality rate.

Contributing factors and causes of to Sleep Apnoea include:

  • Obesity (one of the most common causes)
  • Consumption of alcohol, particularly at night. This causes the throat muscles to relax, and hinders the brain’s response to sleep disordered breathing
  • Large tonsils, particularly in children
  • Predisposition to certain medications and illnesses
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Facial structure

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea:

  • Snoring
  • Choking, gasping and snorting sounds made during sleep
  • Pauses in breathing whilst sleeping, which may be noticed by another person
  • Extreme daytime fatigue and tiredness during the day
  • Decreased energy
  • Interrupted and fragmented sleep
  • Sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Recurrent urination during the night
  • Irritability, behaviour, and mood alterations

A guide for the degrees of severity of Sleep Apnoea:

  • Normal sleep (less than five interruptions per hour)
  • Mild Sleep Apnoea (5 – 15 interruptions per hour)
  • Moderate Sleep Apnoea (15 – 30 interruptions per hour)
  • Severe Sleep Apnoea (more than 30 interruptions per hour)

Treatment options:

Dobson Dental is here to help with diagnosis and treatment. Our experienced clinic will organise a sleep-study, which is done either at home or in hospital.  This monitors what is happening in one’s body and brain whilst they sleep. Then a Sleep Physician studies the results and makes recommendations based on the patients symptoms, physical health and medical history. Popular methods for treatment include the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), and/or dental treatments. If a dental sleep appliance is an option, Dobson Dental can make you one. It is quick and easy to do, and not only stops snoring, but opens the airways too, to treat obstructive sleep apnoea effectively. These treatments dramatically increase the patient’s quality of sleep, leaving them feeling energised, motivated, and well-rested. This not only improves overall health, it also improves quality of life and allows patients to comfortably complete routine daytime tasks without feeling fatigued.

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