Snoring is caused by one or more of our respiratory structures vibrating as air travels along our airways during sleep. It is estimated some 30% of the adult population snore, however some research suggests this may be as high as 50%. Snoring can be loud and disruptive, especially for partners and family members. However commonly it may point to a more serious issue known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
OSA is a condition where there are periods of partial or complete cessation of breathing during sleep. To an observer this may sound like a gasp or even choking sound. Each episode lasts at least 10 seconds. The episode ends when the brain slightly rouses the individual so they can breathe. This stops the individual from properly falling into a deeper sleep and becoming rested. It can lead to poor memory, concentration, headaches and irritability. Conversely, in kids it can manifest with ADHD-like symptoms. OSA is serious. It has been linked to heart disease, increased blood pressure and the risk of a life-threatening heart attack or stroke. Complete diagnosis of OSA cannot be made without a sleep study.
Treatment for snoring and OSA.
Dental appliances are just one facet in targeting snoring and OSA.
- Dental appliances: Dental appliances can be used for snorers, mild-moderate sleep apnoea patients and for severe sleep apnoea patients who will not tolerate CPAP. There are a range of appliances available.
- Diet and lifestyle changes: Exercise and other diet changes may help with weight loss (especially around the face). For some people, diet changes such as cutting out gluten and dairy will lead to better airflow.
- Nasal vents and sprays: If nasal congestion/mucosal thickening has been the primary cause of snoring/OSA, then trying nasal vents or sprays can help clear the nasal passages and allow air flow.
- CPAP: Stands for Continuos Positive Airway Pressure. It involves placing a mask over the nose +/- mouth and applying continuous airflow via a special machine, under mild pressure to open the airway and allow breathing.
- Surgery: For nasal obstructions, tonsillar or adenoid obstructions, significantly enlarged tongues, deviated septums, low-hanging soft palatal arches or severely retrognathic (retrusive) jaws, surgery may be required.
Can OSA affect my general daily routine?
Yes. Fatigue, headaches, irritability and memory loss are all commonly associated with OSA. In addition, people with OSA are 15x more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Can children suffer from OSA?
Absolutely. In children this is often due to tonsils and adenoid obstruction. Sometimes it can also be due to poorly developed mandibles (lower jaws) which are positioned retrognathically (backwards). Nasal airway obstruction can also play a part. Any of these factors can cause a blockage of the airways. Unlike adults, where a lack of sleep makes us sleepy, in children this often results in hyperactive ADHD-like behaviour, and if it persists it can affect physical and intellectual development.