What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking off the upper airway. Breathing stops for a period of time (Each pause in breathing is called an apnoea) until the brain registers the lack of breathing or a drop in oxygen levels and sends a small wake-up call. The sleeper rouses slightly, opens the upper airway, typically snorts and gasps, and then drifts back to sleep almost immediately. It’s estimated that about five per cent of Australians suffer from this sleep disorder, with around one in four men over the age of 30 been affected.
Degrees of severity
- Normal – less than five interruptions an hour
- Mild sleep apnoea – between 5 and 15 interruptions an hour
- Moderate sleep apnoea – between 15 and 30 interruptions an hour
- Severe sleep apnoea – over 30 interruptions an hour.
People with significant sleep apnoea have an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and high blood pressure, and may have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Alcohol, especially in the evening – this relaxes the throat muscles and hampers the brain’s reaction to sleep disordered breathing
- Certain illnesses, like reduced thyroid hormone production or the presence of a very large goitre
- Large tonsils, especially in children
- Medications, such as sleeping tablets and sedatives
- Nasal congestion and obstruction
- Facial bone shape and the size of muscles, such as an undershot jaw.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea
- Waking up un-fresh
- Some degree of sleepiness
- Disturbed breathing during sleep
- Poor Concentration
- Sexual Dysfunction
Treatment for sleep apnoea relies on changes to lifestyle, including losing weight and cutting down on alcohol. Any contributing medical condition, such as low production of thyroid hormone, also needs to be corrected. Any surgical conditions such as large tonsils should be corrected.
- Airway pressure therapy via a mask worn at night that keeps the back of the throat open by forcing air through the nose.
- Taking a Sleep test ( normally referred by your General Practitioner)
- Dental Appliances
Where to get help
- Your General Medical Practitioner