What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep Apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking off the upper airway at the level of the tongue. Breathing stops for a period of time (generally between 10 seconds and up to one minute) until the brain registers the lack of breathing or a drop in oxygen levels and sends a small wake-up call. The sleeper arouses slightly, opens the upper airway, typically snorts and gasps, and then drifts back to sleep almost immediately. In most cases, the person suffering from sleep apnoea doesn’t even realise they are waking up. This pattern can repeat itself hundreds of times every night, causing fragmented sleep. This leaves the person with unrefreshed sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue. 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 years affected.

What causes Sleep Apnoea?

Obesity is one of the most common causes of sleep apnoea. A loss of around 5kg to 10kg may be enough to dramatically reduce the severity of the disorder. Other contributing factors include: • 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 or the presence of a very large inflamed thyroid • Large tonsils, for instance due to too much growth hormone or a congenital abnormality • Medications, such as sleeping tablets and sedatives • Genetically born with a Narrow Airway • Nasal congestion and obstruction.

Treatment Options

The most effective treatment available is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. This involves a mask worn at night that keeps the back of the throat open by forcing air through the nose. Some people with sleep apnoea find the mask difficult to adapt to, however over time this becomes easier to tolerate and as a result will improve a person’s Quality of Life dramatically. Our program allows your customers to trial a machine and mask before purchasing to ensure they have the right mask and they can tolerate the treatment. Other treatments for sleep apnoea rely 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. The option of a Mandibular Splint Mouthguard could be effective for someone with mild sleep apnoea

Watch a video on sleep apnoea...

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