Sleep apnoea is a condition which causes sufferers to temporarily stop breathing during sleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea which is caused by a lack of muscle tone in the upper airway which causes the airway to collapse and obstruct breathing. Where this happens for 10 seconds or more it is called an apnoea. More rarely sleep apnoea is caused by the brain "forgetting" to tell you to breath and this is known as central sleep apnoea.
What (and who) does this affect?
Sufferers don't usually notice a feeling of breathlessness, but the apnoea causes them to be awakened from deep sleep either into lighter sleep or a period of wakefulness. As this can happen many times during the space of a night it prevents them from getting a good night's sleep with sufficient deep sleep to be fully refreshed. This can lead to:
- significant tiredness during the day
- morning headaches
- anxiety or depression
- lack of interest in sex
People with sleep apnoea tend to be heavy snorers, with noisy laboured breathing, and each apnoea may cause a loud snort or snore as they struggle for breath. Sleep apnoea is often noticed by a partner rather than the sufferer themselves.
Who does it affect?
Sleep apnoea can affect people of any age, including children. However it most commonly starts during middle age and affects around 4% of men and 2% of women. An estimated 5% of people go undiagnosed. Risk factors for sleep apnoea include being overweight, having a thick neck, and drinking or taking medications that affect sleep.
How to treat sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea is commonly helped by the use of a mandibular advancement device. This is a mouth-guard which holds the lower jaw and tongue forward in the mouth so that they don't obstruct the airway.
For more severe cases, a nasal continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) may be required. This is a breathing mask which assists your breathing whilst you sleep by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air.
Therasnore – the UKs leading anti snoring mouth guard
At Tower-Health we offer a choice of these mouth–guards including Therasnore, a class I medical device which has been used by NHS for over a decade and prevents snoring in 90% of cases, as well as been proven to treat mild sleep apnoea. Find out more about Therasnore.