End the Snore

Obstructive sleep apnoea and loud snoring have strong evidence showing that they can be detrimental to your overall health, quality of life, daytime energy levels and mood.

Sleep is a non-negotiable, essential activity that every single person must complete daily, yet it is only just starting to receive the widespread attention and priority it deserves. Sleep is now considered amongst the four pillars of health alongside exercise, nutrition, and mental wellbeing. Researchers are starting to unravel the amazing, complex science behind what sleep provides us in terms of healing, restoration, and memory consolidation and how we can make the best decisions to optimally enhance our sleep quality and quantity.

Snoring

Loud ‘freight train’ snoring from the person sleeping with their mouth wide open has long been the subject of either a laughing joke or a cranky annoyance, especially for the bed partner. We now know that disruptive chronic snoring may be a sign of more sinister issues, can be treated effectively to repair harmony in the bedroom, and is most certainly not a laughing matter when considering the detrimental long-term effects it may have.

Snoring is a sign that there is a restricted flow of breathing through the upper airway during sleep and typically the soft palate and uvula at the back of the throat are the main culprits creating the roaring snore. When airflow restricts enough for the airway to collapse, a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea can occur. This is a vicious cycle of the airflow becoming restricted, oxygen levels dropping in the bloodstream, your body responding to the issue by lightening your sleep and restoring normal breathing, and then being repeated many times over the sleep. The result of this is that sleep becomes a battlefield for your body where it is fighting to keep the breathing and oxygen levels stable but the moment it takes a break, the offender begins to strike again and so the body must react.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

For many people with obstructive sleep apnoea, they are innocently unaware that this is occurring every night as they are asleep during the process however the bed partner or family members and friends often can spot loud snoring and laboured breathing or gasping. As sleep apnoea sufferers aren’t having a particularly relaxing or restful sleep, they often feel excessively sleepy or tired during the day and find it difficult to get going in the mornings even with adequate hours of sleep.

CPAP

Treatment for snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea can be achieved with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, oral appliances (mandibular advancement splints), certain surgeries, and lifestyle modifications. It is important that the treatment decision is tailored to each person to match their disease severity, lifestyle arrangements, and preferences with which an appropriately trained medical doctor or sleep physician can help.

CPAP therapy is considered a highly effective treatment which can help support the upper airway by stopping it collapsing with air pressure and hence eliminating sleep apnoea and snoring. The unfortunate reality for some people however is that they are unable to tolerate CPAP therapy to gain any benefit due to discomfort, gut bloating, mask leakage, irritation to their skin and dry throat. It is important in this situation that alternative treatments are sought out as there are other highly effective options which can help rather than living with the disease and snoring.

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances or mandibular advancement splints (MAS) are one such option that are considered either a primary treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea or as an alternative treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnoea where CPAP therapy is not well tolerated. These should be custom-made, comfortable ‘mouthpieces’ made and guided by dentists trained in sleep medicine to gain the absolute best outcome for long-term success. They work by stabilising the lower jaw
(mandible) during sleep to prevent the soft tissues at the back of the throat, such as the palate, uvula, and tongue, from collapsing in on each other. Every person requires a different level of ‘jaw advancement’ and so it is important that these devices are adjustable so this can be tailored to each individual.

Certain lifestyle changes such as exercise, weight loss, sleeping on your side and alcohol abstinence can all be effective options to either reduce or ‘cure’ obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring. These however should be guided by your medical doctor and team of health professionals to obtain the best results and ensure it is appropriate for your situation.

Loud disruptive snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea are not only annoying disturbances for bed partners but can be serious medical concerns which should be identified and treated with suitable personalized treatments. Optimising sleep quality should be on the top of everybody’s priority list and may be one of the most important things to improving quality of life and happiness.

Courtesy QLD Dental Sleep Therapy, www.qdst.com.au

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