Know the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnoea

Do you or someone in your home snore loudly and feel tired during the day? It's possible you might have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This involves the throat getting blocked during the night, interrupting breathing and preventing a restful sleep.

Around 5% of people are thought to have obstructive sleep apnoea, but many don't even know they have it. Knowing the warning signs means you should be able to recognise them in yourself or a family member and seek help.

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Who is at risk?

Anyone can be affected by obstructive sleep apnoea, including children, but you are more likely to suffer from the condition if:

  • you're middle aged or older
  • you're overweight or obese
  • you have a narrow throat or large tonsils/adenoids
  • you have a family history of OSA

Sleep apnoea risk can also be higher if you sleep on your back, smoke, drink alcohol in the evening or take sleeping tablets, sedatives, decongestants or certain other medications.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?

If you think you might have obstructive sleep apnoea, you should make an appointment to see your dentist or doctor. They will ask about your symptoms and may be able to diagnose OSA or refer you to a sleep specialist.

These symptoms can include:

Loud snoring and interrupted breathing

Loud snoring and sleep interruptions are not always related to sleep apnoea, but they can be warning signs of blocked airways. Normal sleep is interrupted less than five times per hour, while severe sleep apnoea may involve hundreds of disturbances every night. These may be accompanied by choking or gasping as you struggle for breath.

Tiredness and poor concentration

If you usually feel tired and unrefreshed when you wake up, and this continues during the day, this can indicate an interrupted sleep. Daytime tiredness can also affect concentration and memory, which increases the risk of being involved in workplace accidents or motor vehicle accidents.

Mood changes

Not getting a good night's sleep every night can take its toll on your psychological wellbeing as well as your physical health. People who don't get enough sleep are more likely to experience irritability, depression and personality change.

Reduced libido

Poor quality sleep caused by obstructive sleep apnoea may lead to loss of interest in sex and impotence in men.

How is sleep apnoea treated?

If you are confirmed to have obstructive sleep apnoea, the treatments recommended will aim to address the cause of the problem. Depending on your situation, sleep apnoea treatment may involve:

  • trying to lose weight
  • not smoking
  • drinking less
  • sleeping on your side rather than your back, using a special pillow or wedge if you need help
  • avoiding sleeping tablets and other medications that may be linked to sleep apnoea

If you have more severe OSA, your dentist or sleep specialist can discuss other treatment options. These may include:

  • wearing an oral appliance similar to a mouthguard to hold the throat open at night
  • using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to feed air into the lungs and prevent the throat from closing
  • surgery to enlarge the throat or reduce oversized tissues (only in the most severe cases)

Sleep apnoea experts in Auckland

If you want to know more about snoring and sleep apnoea treatments, St Heliers Dental Centre is a Sound Sleeper provider in Auckland. Our dentists help people to sleep more soundly using SomnoDent MAS™ devices and other personalised treatments.

Call our Auckland dentists on (09) 575 5814 or make an appointment online.