Sleep apnoea treatment

There are two types of sleep apnoea: Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, which is cause by blockage of the airway and Central Sleep Apnoea, which is neurological condition when the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to breathe.

A sleep study is required for correct diagnosis.

Sleep apnoea is on the rise in both adults and children and needs to be taken seriously: it can cause severe medical problems, including heart issues such as very high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke and diabetes – as well as increased risk of accidents as a result of the symptoms. But it is now well-recognised and understood, and there are treatment options that can reduce the risks and help restore quality of life.

What causes Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Unlike snoring, where the upper airway becomes partially blocked, in Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) there is an abnormal relaxation of the muscles and the airway is completely blocked for 10 seconds or more – and breathing stops. This event is called an apnoea.

The brain and body are deprived of oxygen and you wake up  several times or even hundreds of times during the night, depending on the severity, depriving the body of the deeper and regenerative states of sleep.

The body is unable to detoxify well and poor sleep can be a major factor in weight gain or inability to loose weight.

Symptoms that might indicate OSA

Sleep apnoea - the airway becomes completely blocked

During an apnoea the airway is completely blocked

All sleep apnoea sufferers snore, but not all snorers have sleep apnoea. Many sufferers are not aware they even have the condition, but they (or their partner) may recognise the symptoms:

  • heavy snoring, ending with gasping, gurgling or choking sounds
  • extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day
  • poor concentration and memory
  • irritability, short temper, depression
  • dry mouth on waking up
  • frequent visits to the bathroom during the night
  • waking up with a headache.

 


Risk factors

Anyone can have sleep apnoea, irrespective of their age, gender or body type. However, men have twice the risk compared to women, and older age is also a risk factor. Some other indicators of risk are:

  • being overweight
  • large neck size
  • cigarette smoking
  • excessive alcohol, especially at night
  • high blood pressure
  • medications such as sleeping pills
  • a family history of sleep apnoea.

Children and sleep apnoea

In children the most common causes of sleep apnoea is (as with childhood snoring) enlarged tonsils and adenoids, most often the effect of infection by bacteria and viruses, or blocked noses resulting from untreated allergies and irritants.

Just as in adults, sleep apnoea in children can wreak daytime havoc with sleepiness, memory and cognitive issues – that is, with the child’s ability to learn and enjoy school activities. This may result in behavioural problems which are sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Treatment options for sleep apnoea – an overview

Treatment depends on

  • What is blocking the airway
  • How severe your sleep apnoea is
  • Other medical conditions or problems you may have

Correct diagnosis is essential

It is important that a proper diagnosis is carried out. Our dentists will examine your mouth and airways and assess your symptoms. If sleep apnoea is indicated, you may be referred for a sleep study or to other specialists. Dentistry can be a key part of the solution for sleep apnoea.

Changing habits

As with snoring, life style modifications such as losing weight, quitting cigarettes and reducing alcohol intake can help to improve or eliminate sleep apnoea, but these should be done in conjunction with a correct diagnosis and other treatment as required.

Oral appliance to reposition the jaw during sleep

An oral appliance, called a Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS), repositions the lower jaw for mild to moderate sleep apnoea. More severe cases may need a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

Dealing with physical obstructions

Allergies

If there are untreated allergies causing nasal congestion, these need to be dealt with and treated by a naturopath.

Ear Nose and Throat

For issues with enlarged tonsils or adenoids, sinus problems or nasal polyps: naturopaths can treat less serious tonsil matters and ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons may recommend prescription drugs or surgery for more serious conditions.

Expansion of the palate (orthodontic treatment)

Where the apnoea is being caused by issues of facial structures – where the jaw, nose and throat are not correctly positioned due to mouth breathing – we can use a Light Wire appliance to expand the space and correct the misalignment.

Breathing

Where there is dysfunctional breathing, you will need to see a breathing specialist to rectify unhealthy breathing habits that contribute to Sleep Apnoea.

More about our treatment approach for breathing and sleep disorders.

 


 

Our dentists have experience in sleep and breathing related problems in both adults and children, and we work integratively with other practitioners.

Call us at Lotus Dental in Sydney on 02 9953 5153 or send us an email to make an appointment. We’ll discuss and diagnose the cause(s) of the problem, including a home sleep study if necessary and identify the treatment approach and options for you or your child.