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Snoring and Sleep Apnoea

Snoring is a common problem that can affect all ages, from children to adults. Whilst snoring won’t harm your health, it can certainly harm your relationship. Around 45% of the population snores at least occasionally. Snoring can sometimes be a sign of more serious disease.

Snoring is the sound made by air passing through a partially blocked airway. When you fall asleep at night the muscles in your throat and tongue relax and can become floppy, partly blocking the airway and causing snoring. Snoring becomes more common as you get older and is more frequent in men than in women.

What is obstructive sleep apnoea?

Snoring is caused by partial blockage of the airway during sleep. In bad snorers, when they fall into the deepest most restful part of sleep the airway may block completely. This causes a drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. The low oxygen levels are detected by sensors in the brain which partially wake you from your deep sleep and allow you to start breathing again. You gradually drift back into deeper sleep and the blockage or apnoea happens again. This cycle can repeat literally hundreds of times during a night and is called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. This cycle of disruptive sleep patterns means that sufferers never feel properly rested and also can lead to serious health consequences. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
    • From lack of deep restful sleep. This may lead to difficulty concentrating and problems at work or school
  • Increased Risk of Accidents
    • Daytime sleepiness can lead to sleep apnoea patients falling asleep whilst driving
  • Increased Risk of Heart Problems and Stroke
    • The extra strain sleep apnoea places on the heart and circulation means that sufferers may have increased risks of heart disease and stroke

What causes Snoring and Sleep Apnoea?

These conditions are part of the same disease with snoring at the milder end and obstructive sleep apnoea the more severe. The causes are the same for both and include:

  • Obesity
    • Particularly in men who tend to put on weight around the neck area
  • Nose Blockage
    • Either due to  allergies, viral infections, polyps or a deviated septum will lead to mouth breathing and can cause snoring
  • Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
    • The main cause of snoring in children, but may also affect adults
  • The shape of the face and jaws
    • A small lower jaw or a large tongue may cause “crowding” of the airway and lead to snoring
  • Alcohol and sleeping tablets
    • These are potent muscle relaxants which make the throat muscles even floppier than normal

Treatment Options for Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea include

Many patients with snoring and sleep apnoea can be helped with simple surgery to the nose adenoids and tonsils.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Weight Loss and Lifestyle Modifications
    • Losing weight and increasing muscle tone will improve snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea in nearly all patients
  • Dental Splints
    • Useful for mild snoring, these are worn at night and pull your lower jaw and tongue forward, creating more space in the airway
  • Surgical Options
    • For patients with snoring and mild sleep apnoea
    • For Moderate to Severe Sleep Apnoea where CPAP has been tried and has failed

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) this is a machine which blows air through your nose via a mask, preventing airway collapse and reversing obstructive sleep apnoea.


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