Snoring & Sleep Apnoea

How does Snoring occur?

Snoring occurs when the soft palate and soft tissues in the throat vibrate together. Throat muscles relax during sleep, like all muscles. This reduces the size of the airway, causing vibration when breathing in.

In some cases, breathing stops altogether for a short time. This is called ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’ (OSA). All OSA sufferers snore but not all snorers have OSA.

A diagnosis of OSA is made when there are five or more abnormal respiratory events per hour, lasting 10 seconds or longer. Abnormal events include ‘apnoeas’ (breaks in breathing) and ‘hypopnoeas’ (abnormal reductions in the depth and rate of breathing). As OSA may be a potentially life threatening condition, a referral to a sleep clinic specialists may be recommended.

Are some people more likely to snore?

The shape and dimensions of the face and jaw determine whether people are likely to snore or suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. OSA sufferers are likely to have a shorter lower jaw and an enlarged soft palate. Although the tongue size will probably be normal, the tongue has less space in which to function.

Men are eight times more likely than women to suffer from OSA, though the gap narrows after the menopause.

Why is Snoring sometimes dangerous?

Most apnoeic events take place during ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) sleep. REM sleep is deep and refreshing and represents approximately a quarter of total sleep time. Loss of REM sleep may result in:

  • Fatigue and daytime sleepiness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Tension, headaches and sore throats
  • Even heart attacks

What treatments are available?

Snoring Appliance Epping Dentist, sleep apnoea

Depending on severity, treatment for snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnoea could include:

  • Preventative measures – weight loss, reduced use of alcohol, tobacco and sedatives.
  • A change of sleeping position
  • Drugs to reduce nasal congestion or alter sleep patterns
  • Use of a dental appliance to pull the lower jaw and tongue forward
  • Electrical stimulation of the suprahyoid muscles and soft palate
  • Surgery to change the shape of the mouth
  • CPAP – Continuous Positive Air Pressure, which uses a face mask and an electric pump to keep the airway open by pushing oxygen into the lungs.

How do dental appliances help?

Appliances are normally designed to pull the lower jaw and tongue forward, to make more space at the back of the throat – called ‘mandibular advancement or positioning appliances’. We can offer treatment for simple snoring, not for OSA.

To establish whether there is a simple snoring problem or OSA, others may also be involved. It  will help to question a partner to find whether there are episodes when breathing stops. If there are, you may need to see a GP or a sleep clinic for assessment.

Make an appointment with us today.

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