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Sleep Apnoea

If you have problems getting a good night’s sleep, it could be from a sleep disorder called sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts again, throughout the night, causing significant disruptions to sleep. Sleep apnoea can sometimes become serious due to the impact it has on breathing. Loud snoring, insomnia and having trouble breathing are all frequently seen with this common condition.

There are two types of sleep apnoea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea. This is when the throat muscles become so relaxed during sleep that part of the airway becomes closed off. This type of sleep apnoea can occur at any age but is typically more common in middle-aged males. Central sleep apnoea is a much rarer type of sleep apnoea. This occurs when your brain doesn’t actually send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

If you think you have sleep apnoea, don’t worry! Sleep apnoea affects more people than you think, and some might not even know they have it yet! In New Zealand, obstructive sleep apnoea affects at least 4% of adult men and 2% of adult women.

If you think you have sleep apnoea, there are a few different symptoms that you might be experiencing.

You could be experiencing the following symptoms at night:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air during your sleep
  • Insomnia

You could be experiencing these symptoms during the day:

  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and difficulty focusing during the day
  • Irritability

Causes of sleep apnoea

When you are in a deep sleep, the muscles in your throat relax. For someone suffering from sleep apnoea, the throat muscles will relax so much that part of their airway actually closes off.

They keep trying to breathe but no air enters the lungs, reducing the oxygen in the blood and waking the person. They will usually be unaware that they have woken and return to sleep which is when the cycle repeats and re-occurs - constantly throughout the night.

There are many factors that can contribute to sleep apnoea, including:

  • Muscular changes
  • Physical obstructions such as excess fat storage around the airway
  • Brain function

There are also some common risk factors that contribute to sleep apnoea, including sleeping on your back, chronic sinusitis, menopause or recent weight gain.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Obesity
  • Large neck circumference, large tonsils or large adenoids
  • Down syndrome
  • Being a smoker

Have questions?

There’s no need to stress if you think you might have sleep apnoea! There are a few different ways you can treat it. You can start by making a few lifestyle changes including giving up smoking, regularly exercising, losing weight and reducing your alcohol intake. There are also a number of dental appliances that can help treat sleep apnoea. These help to hold the jaw and tongue in a particular position to help keep the airway open. These will need to be fitted by a dentist or orthodontist. For more sever sleep apnoea, you may need a CPAP machine.

It can be possible to prevent sleep apnoea. Trying to change sleeping positions, such as sleeping on your side as opposed to on your back, can help.

Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake, particularly a few hours before bed, can also help with prevention. Regular exercise and weight loss are also beneficial.

It is also important to take good care of your oral health with a combination of at-home dental care and building a great relationship with your dentist.

We recommend daily healthy habits and regular visits to the dentist. For optimum oral health:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits at home including brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day
  • Book hygiene visits with an oral hygienist or oral health therapist twice each year
  • Book routine exam and x-rays visits with your dentist once each year

The Lumino Dental Plan is a cost-effective way to ensure your oral health is given the priority it deserves. It’s an affordable ongoing subscription plan that keeps you on top of your oral health. We know that when you look after your oral health properly with regular preventative care, you’ll be less likely to need to see a dentist in an emergency. You’re also likely to spend less money at the dentist over time.

There are a few symptoms of sleep apnoea, some more common than others. People who suffer from sleep apnoea will usually be frequent snorers, have trouble sleeping and find themselves feeling irritable or sleepy during the day. People with sleep apnoea may also experience headaches in the morning and a dry mouth when they wake up.

Sleep apnoea can cause you frustration at night, and throughout the day. Most of these problems are annoying, however sleep apnoea can also lead to more serious issues. If left untreated, sleep apnoea could lead to the risk of more serious conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Sleep apnoea dental appliances, or surgery, might be the best option for you if you are concerned about the risks associated with sleep apnoea. If you book an appointment to see your dentist or orthodontist, they will discuss the options available to you.

We get it. We’re New Zealand’s largest group of dentists so we’ve seen more scared patients than any other dental practice in the country. For most people who are scared about visiting the dentist it’s because they’ve had a bad experience in the past. Relax. Our gentle and compassionate dentists understand how you feel. Whether you’re anxious or worried about experiencing more pain or the potential cost of the treatment, the best thing to do is to let us know how you feel. Making sure you feel comfortable is part of our job.

What next

Learn more about what's next by viewing some possible treatments. We recommend you book an appointment with a dentist for specific advice about your symptoms. You can search for your nearest practice and book online today.