Sleep apnoea is caused by the total closure of the pharyngeal (throat) wall due to the weakening of the pharyngeal wall allowing it to collapse during sleep. This can last for long periods causing reduced oxygen to the brain and body. As the oxygen levels fall natural, protective mechanisms in the brain wake the patient up and so they start breathing again. This is call obstructive sleep apnoea. (OSA)
If you are overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol and ageing can exacerbate the problem.
How many people suffer from Obstructive sleep apnoea?
The prevalence of OSA in men is estimated to be 4% and in women 2%. As more people become overweight these figures are rising.
Can obstructive sleep apnoea be harmful?
OSA is linked with high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, acid reflux, diabetes and weight gain. Due to disturbed sleep, sufferers are more prone to have car accidents, not perform as well and generally feel more tired during the day.
How can we help with sleep apnoea?
Dental appliances called mandibular repositioning devices (MRDs) which hold the lower jaw (mandible) in a protrusive position are very effective in reducing effects of mild sleep apnoea.
For severe obtrusive sleep apnoea, the gold standard treatment is continuous positive airway pressue. (CPAP)