How does snoring occur?

Snoring occurs when the soft palate and soft tissues in the throat vibrate together. Like all muscles, the throat muscles relax during sleep, which reduces the size of the airway, and cause vibration on an in-breath.

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, each 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 can be a potentially life-threatening condition, a referral to a sleep clinic specialists might 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 OSA.  Sufferers are likely to have a shorter lower jaw and an enlarged soft palate. Although the tongue size will probably be normal, it has less space in which to function.

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

Why is snoring sometimes dangerous?

Most OSA events take place during the “rapid eye movement” (REM) phases of sleep. REM sleep is deep and refreshing and represents approximately a quarter of total sleep time. Loss of REM sleep might result in:

  • fatigue and daytime sleepiness
  • problems with concentration
  • irritability
  • irregular heart beat
  • tension, headaches and sore throats
  • heart attacks

What treatments are available?

Snore Sleep Apnoea Appliances Epping Dentist Epping
Depending on the severity, treatment for snoring or OSA could include:

  • preventative measures – such as weight loss, and reduced intake of alcohol, tobacco and sedatives.
  • a change of sleeping position
  • drugs to reduce nasal congestion or to alter sleep patterns
  • use of a dental appliance to pull the lower jaw and tongue forward
  • electrical stimulation of the suprahyoid muscles (at the top of the throat in the neck) 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, and thus make more space at the back of the throat.  They are “mandibular advancement or positioning appliances”. We can offer treatment for both simple snoring and OSA.

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

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