Sleep Apnoea: What Is It and How Can It Be Treated?

Sleep Apnoea is a sleep disorder. It’s a common but serious disorder whereby people stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep, resulting in their brain receiving insufficient oxygen. The person’s breathing-pauses will typically last between 10 and 20 seconds and can occur anywhere from 5 to more than 100 times per night.

During a sleep apnoea episode, the brain responds by briefly disturbing the person’s sleep, just enough to kickstart their breathing, ultimately resulting in a choking or gasping sound. This disrupted sleep pattern deprives the person of the good quality sleep everyone requires to remain mentally sharp, energetic, and productive the next day. Snoring is a very common sign of sleep apnoea.

It’s important that Sleep Apnoea be taken seriously because it can cause serious health problems – deadly, in some cases. There are various types of Sleep Apnoea, so let’s take a closer look to see how you can improve the quality of your sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

The most common type of sleep apnoea is OSA. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) between 5 and 20% of adults are affected by this disorder.

OSA arises when the normal flow of air in-and-out of the mouth and nose becomes blocked during sleep due to the relaxing of muscles that support the upper airway’s soft tissue. The typical result is interrupted breathing and loud snoring.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea symptoms are usually first detected by a partner, whose own sleep is adversely affected by the loud snoring, noisy breathing, and brief periods where the breathing stops altogether. People who suffer with OSA often wake up with a dry mouth and find themselves going to the bathroom more often.

How to Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

If you think you or your partner have OSA, it’s important that you make an appointment to visit your healthcare professional immediately. OSA is typically diagnosed by attending a sleep clinic where your sleep pattern will be observed.

Central Sleep Apnoea

Central Sleep Apnoea involves the central nervous system and is a less common form of sleep apnoea. Usually caused by an underlying health condition, Central Sleep Apnoea happens because the brain temporarily fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. People with this type of sleep apnoea seldom snore because the airway is not blocked.

While the symptoms of Central Sleep Apnoea are similar to those of OSA, Central Sleep Apnoea can be caused by sleeping at high altitude, or serious health conditions like stroke or heart failure.

Mixed Sleep or Complex Apnoea

This condition is quite rare; it’s a combination of Central Sleep Apnoea and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

Sleep Apnoea Symptoms include –

  • Loud and frequent snoring
  • Gasping, choking, snorting during sleep
  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness, irrespective of how much time you spend in bed. This is the biggest tell-tale sign of Sleep Apnoea.

Other Symptoms May Include –

  • Insomnia, restless sleep, night-time awakenings
  • Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Frequently going to the bathroom during the night
  • Waking up short of breath during the night

How to Improve Sleep Apnoea

Your first step must be to seek help from your healthcare professional, who may suggest attending a sleep clinic where your sleep will be monitored and a personalised treatment plan will be created. There are also a few other things you can try –

  • Watch Your Weight! Obesity and being overweight are the most common causes of OSA, which is linked to the soft tissue of the throat and mouth. Most healthcare professionals suggest that losing a minimum of two stone will improve your sleep quality. If you need help losing weight, we can assist with a number of weight loss supplements.
  • Wear a Mouthpiece: In some instances, wearing an oral appliance can be a good alternative to other procedures, or even surgery. It can certainly help some people who are experiencing mild or moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. You’ll find there are a wide variety of anti-snoring devices on the market, like a Stop-snoring mouthguard, which is simply a small mouthpiece that attaches to the upper teeth, allowing you to move your lower jaw normally.
  • Change Your Sleeping Position: If you’re a back sleeper, try sleeping on your side. This simple adjustment not only reduces snoring, but also offers amazing relief from back pain and neck pain.