Do I Have Sleep Apnoea?

Regularly not getting enough sleep can be harmful to your health, but so can snoring. Not only does it affect your partner’s sleep, which might lead to you getting a polite jab to your side, but it could be a sign of something more sinister known as sleep apnoea. So, if you think you are getting a good night’s sleep but still feel tired every morning and you are prone to snoring, it’s time to get tested.

Sleep apnoea can be associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or even a stroke. The longer it goes on, the greater the chance of your health being affected.

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea occurs when the muscles relax in the throat as you breathe, causing your breathing to be interrupted because of a blocked airway. The brain then realises there isn’t enough oxygen being pumped around your blood and wakes your conscious mind to restart your breathing before you drift back to sleep again. Someone who suffers from sleep apnoea may wake dozens of times in one night and not be aware of it. Yet, when they wake up in the morning, they may feel foggy and sleep deprived or their head feels like they’ve had a late night out on the town, despite getting their eight hours.

What are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnoea?

The common sleep apnoea symptoms are:

  • Loud snoring or making choking or gasping noises.
  • Always feeling tired or waking with a headache.
  • Feeling irritable or depressed.
  • Having trouble concentrating.

Types of Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea – this is the most common type of sleep apnoea and results in a blockage of the airway. The soft tissue at the back of the throat closes preventing normal breathing whilst sleeping. This usually leads to loud gasps of breath whilst sleeping.

Central sleep apnoea – in this kind of sleep apnoea, the brain does not function properly in signalling the muscles involved in breathing. As a result, what occurs is shallow, slow breathing.

Mixed sleep apnoea – a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnoea symptoms.

Testing for Sleep Apnoea?

If you suspect you suffer from sleep apnoea, it is important to consult your GP to organise a sleep study. Going along with your significant other can help confirm if you constantly wake up or snore.

Prior to going to see your GP, it may be wise to keep a sleep diary that records the time you went to bed and woke up and everything you do in between, such as going to the toilet, if you wake up, if your partner tells you that you are snoring, etc.

Whilst many think that dental specialists may just focus on the teeth and jaw, the overall health — not just the oral health of the patient — is important to those that work in the field of dentistry. Behind every healthy smile should be an overall healthy patient.

What are the Treatment Options?

Sleep apnoea is an easy condition to treat once diagnosed. A dentist or GP can refer you to a sleep specialist to undergo a sleep study, which will confirm a sleep apnoea diagnosis. Depending on the type of diagnosis, your dentist may be able to provide a treatment option involving an oral appliance.

With those diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea, a dentist can design and fit a mandibular advancement device, which is an oral appliance that pushes the jaw forward. This then keeps the tongue where it should be and opens the airway to avoid obstruction.

The treatment options for more severe obstructive sleep apnoea include:

  • CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure).
  • Healthy lifestyle habits (e.g., quitting smoking).
  • Supplemental oxygen.
  • Surgery.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnoea

If you suspect you suffer from sleep apnoea, it is best to see your GP to organise a sleep study to confirm your diagnosis. However, if you would like to learn more about sleep apnoea in consultation with cosmetic dentistry or as part of a full mouth reconstruction, please call (08) 9321 1632.