Sleep Apnea FAQs

Sleep Apnea FAQs

We have tried to answer all the common questions, but if you require any further information please use the Contact form and we will endeavour to answer your questions as promptly and completely as we can.

What is sleep apnea?
With Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) an increase in weight or a reduction in muscle tone can trigger the change from a partially blocked airway (snoring) to a completely blocked airway (apnea). Obstructive sleep apnea ranges from mild to severe. This is established using an Apnea/Hypopnoea Index (AHI) which measures the number of apneas plus the number of hypoapnoeas.

Each apnea will cause some breaths to be missed, leading to a rise of carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Typically the sufferer will become conditioned to the effects such as daytime drowsiness and headaches upon waking. It is common for the sufferer to be completely unaware of the disorder, and remain undiagnosed for several years. Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. The estimated prevelance of this serious sleeping disorder ranges from study to study, but it should be noted that in every confirmed case of obstructive sleep apnea the person diagnosed is also a snorer. The two conditions are very closely linked. Often your sleeping partner, or others close to you, will notice the symptoms of sleep apnea first. The symptoms are likely to include loud snoring interupted by pauses and gasps, frequent daytime sleepiness, and morning headaches.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and arrhythmias. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea you are 30% more likely to have a heart attack or die prematurely. The condition has also been linked to memory loss and brain damage. If you frequently feel tired during the day it is possible you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. While obstructive sleep apnea is closely linked to snoring, it is far more damaging and potentially life threatening.

The industry standard for screening patients for obstructive sleep apnea is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale test. Please use our online version to test yourself.
The best solution for sleep apnea
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is regarded as the gold standard in sleep apnea treatments. There is however a significant proportion of people that are prescribed CPAP who simply cannot put up with this method of treatment. Using a CPAP machine while you sleep entails wearing a face mask with an air hose going to an air pump machine that sits near the bed. The machine pumps air into the airway throughout the night and by doing so keeps the airway open.

Fortunately there's been a great deal of research into mandibular advancement devices which are an effective alternative. These devices are also known as snoring guards because they like a sports mouth guard. The proper term is actually mandibular advancement device. Mandibular advancement devices offer a simpler and more tolerable treatment for patients with sleep apnea. A mandibular advancement device stops the upper airway collapsing by holding the lower jaw forward, this brings the tongue and the hyoid bone forward and so keeps the airway open while asleep.

A research study comparing the effectiveness of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) with mandibular advancement devices (MAD) in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, showed that over 80% (17 out of the 21) of patients had a preference for the mandibular advancement device. Each patient used the CPAP for two months and the MAD for two months. Before and after each treatment the patient had a sleep study.

The before and after sleep studies revealed that with both the CPAP machines and the manibular advancement devices the number of apneas fell significantly and to acceptable levels.
Why you need a treatment for sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is believed to affect up to 20% of people in some demographics. It is not uncommon for it to take years (even decades) before sleep apnea sufferers get diagnosed and treated. So sadly there are a large number of people who are suffering the effects of sleep apnea yet unaware they have it. This is common because people become used to the feeling of daytime sleepiness and morning headaches.

The sleep apnea sufferer is normally unaware of the pauses in breathing. The partner however may notice the snoring noise stop, followed by a pause in breathing, and then a gasp or choking sound when breathing resumes. Sleep apnea raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and robs the body of oxygen. The apneas lead to sleep deprivation for the sufferer.

People suffering from sleep apnea have been known to die in their sleep from asphyxiation. Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of having a vehicle accident due to daytime tiredness. There are sadly plenty of other effects of untreated sleep apnea that are just as deadly. They include an increased risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Some specialists have surmised that left untreated sleep apnea can reduce somebody's life expectancy by as much as 20 years. Recent research has shown that drivers with untreated sleep apnea are 6 times more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident. Furthermore these drivers are twice as likely to have a heart attack.

If not treated sleep apnea can lead to serious health risks such as cadiovascular disease, raised blood pressure, loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, obesity, heart attack and diabetes.

If you have a standard driving licence for a car or motorcycle, you can continue driving when your condition is confirmed as being under control by a medical person. If you happen to have a driving licence for commercial vehicles like a heavy goods vehicle, you will need the same confirmation that the condition is under control, and ongoing treatment and regular licencing reviews.

It is your responsibility as a driver not to drive knowing that you have untreated sleep apnea which places you and other road users at risk. It is your responsibility to cease driving and report to the driving licence authority (DVLA in the UK) if you have untreated sleep apnea. You should contact your doctor immediately If in a sleep physician’s opinion you are safe to drive then the wearing of a Somnowell may assist in the management of your condition.
What are the alternatives to CPAP?
If you have obstructive sleep apnea that is classed as either moderate or severe, then depending on what country you live in you would most likely have been prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. CPAP is regarded as the gold standard in sleep apnea treatments. There is however a significant proportion of people that are prescribed CPAP who simply cannot put up with this method of treatment. Using a CPAP machine while you sleep involves wearing a face mask with an air hose going to an air pump machine that sits near the bed. The face mask requires straps that go around the head to keep it in place.

For others there may be issues related to the mask and the air pressure. Some people find they get a stuffy nose, others a dry mouth. Or perhaps red marks or sores on the face caused by the mask. A poor fitting mask that leaks can lead to sore, red or dry eyes. A too tightly fitting mask can lead to problems with the teeth, making them sore and even leading to unwanted tooth movements.

In 2002 Joanna Battagel et al published the outcome of a randomized cross over trial that compared the effectiveness of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) with mandibular advancement devices (MAD) in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The study showed that over 80% (17 out of the 21) of patients had a preference for the mandibular advancement device.

Each patient used the CPAP for two months and the MAD for two months. Before and after each treatment the patient had a sleep study. Patients also completed an Epworth Sleepiness Scale during treatment. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is an industry standard questionnaire used to gauge daytime sleepiness. The before and after sleep studies revealed that with both the CPAP machines and the manibular advancement devices the number of apneas fell significantly and to acceptable levels. There was no statistically significant difference between the two treatments. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale results showed patients reported an improvement in daytime sleepiness with both treatments, and again with no difference between CPAP and mandibular advancement devices.

A mandibular advancement device is worn inside the mouth and holds the lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep. In doing so the airway is kept open. Mandibular advancement devices can significantly reduce the amount of apneas experienced.
Sleep apnea and your driving licence
If you're diagnosed as having obstructive sleep apnea you must to inform the authority which has issued your driving licence. When telling them they will want to know the contact details of your doctor and specialist who is helping you deal with this condition. They'll also want to know if you're receiving treatment, if the condition is in hand, and if you're now free from excessive daytime drowsiness.

If you have a standard driving licence for a car or motorcycle, you can continue driving when your condition is confirmed as being under control by a medical person. If you happen to have a driving licence for commercial vehicles like a heavy goods vehicle, you will need the same confirmation that the condition is under control, and ongoing treatment and regular licencing reviews.

It is your responsibility as a driver not to drive knowing that you have untreated sleep apnea which places you and other road users at risk. It is your responsibility to cease driving and report to the driving licence authority (DVLA in the UK) if you have untreated sleep apnea. You should contact your doctor immediately If in a sleep physician’s opinion you are safe to drive then the wearing of a Somnowell may assist in the management of your condition.
How to treat sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a particularly serious condition that is closely related to snoring. When an individual snores their soft tissues vibrate which ends up in the snoring noise. This is caused by the relaxed muscles making the airway smaller. The air has to travel faster and the soft tissues vibrate. With obstructive sleep apnea the airway closes completely leading to a pause in breathing. These pauses in breathing can happen many times each hour and put the body under substantial strain. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is said to reduce life expectancy by as much as 20 years.

Treatment for sleep apnea is normally quite simple. The gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea remains CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). The patient wears a mask to bed with a tube attached that pumps air into the airway and keeps it open. Clearly CPAP can be tough for many patients to endure. An alternative choice to CPAP is an oral device worn in the mouth while sleeping. These oral devices are more accurately called mandibular advancement appliances. They are also called mandibular advancement devices, or mandibular advancement splints, or mandibular repositioning devices.

These devices work by holding the lower jaw forward and thereby maintain an open airway during sleep. Opening a closed airway enough to stop the pauses in breathing is easier than opening an airway enough to totally eliminate the snoring noise. However mandibular advancement devices can do both effectively. They can be used for mild to moderate sleep apnea, and severe sleep apnea when the patient can't endure CPAP.

A quick look online will reveal a large number of self-fit devices. These would represent the low cost bottom end of the market. In the middle are the semi-bespoke devices that are occasionally available 'over-the-counter', or can be purchased from a dental practitioner. At the top end are the bespoke devices that can only ever be obtained from a dentist.

The Somnowell mandibular advancement appliance represents the very top end of the market for these kinds of removable oral devices for obstructive sleep apnea. Each appliance is unique and designed to meet the individuals specific needs. The Somnowell Practitioner will take extensive records that are sent to the Somnowell laboratories that construct each appliance. The records include dental impressions of your teeth, a soft wax impression of your bite with the lower jaw in the forward position, and lastly a facebow record that records the arc of the lower jaw as it opens. These detailed records help the Somnowell laboratory to make an appliance that's extremely comfortable, small, discreet, and allows the user to freely move their jaw as normal.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
The symptoms and risk signals of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, being overweight, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, high blood pressure, depression and irritability. Other indicators of obstructive sleep apnea include needing to get up and urinate in the night, memory loss, mood changes and lack of interest in sex.

The snoring will be accompanied by regular pauses in breathing whilst the sufferer is asleep. The individual will stop breathing and the snoring will stop, this may last for 10-20 seconds and possibly longer. After a short while the bodies emergency system will get them breathing again. This is normally accompanied by loud gasp or choking sound. This can happen many times each hour and lead to daytime drowsiness and can severely damage health. Sleep apnea is classified as either mild, moderate or severe. This is set by the number of pauses in breathing per hour (AHI).

The sufferer normally is ignorant of the pauses in breathing. The partner however may notice the snoring noise stop, followed by a pause in breathing, and then a gasp or choking sound when breathing resumes. Sleep apnea raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and robs the body of oxygen. The apneas lead to sleep deprivation for the sufferer. People can die of asphyxiation because of sleep apnea, unfortunately most sufferers take many years before being diagnosed and treated.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable sleep related breathing disorder that affects many people and is largely undiagnosed.
What is obstructive sleep apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a treatable sleep related breathing disorder that affects many people and is largely undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is where the airway is briefly and repeatedly fully constricted. The airway collapses and air can no longer enter the lungs and breathing stops. The blood oxygen levels reduce and the brain sends out an emergency signal causing a deep gasping breath. This can happen many times each hour and lead to daytime drowsiness and can severely damage health.

Loud snoring is very common in people with obstructive sleep apnea. The causes of snoring and sleep apnea are closely related and could be considered part of the same spectrum of sleep related breathing disorders. In people with obstructive sleep apnea the snoring will be accompanied by regular pauses in breathing whilst the sufferer is asleep. The individual will stop breathing and the snoring will stop, this may last for 10-20 seconds and possibly longer. After a short while the bodies emergency system will get them breathing again. This is normally accompanied by loud gasp or choking sound.

The sleep apnea sufferer normally is ignorant of the pauses in breathing. The partner however may notice the snoring noise stop, followed by a pause in breathing, and then a gasp or choking sound when breathing resumes. Sleep apnea raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and robs the body of oxygen. The apneas also lead to sleep deprivation for the sufferer.

Sleep apnea is classified as either mild, moderate or severe. This is set by the number of pauses in breathing per hour (AHI). The two main sleep apnea treatments are a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP), or a mandibular advancement appliance. CPAP would normally be the 1st line of treatment for severe cases. If however the patient can't tolerate CPAP they can use the mandibular advancement appliance as an alternative. Sleep apnea is a mechanical problem and a small oral device such as the Somnowell mandibular advancement device can hold the lower jaw forward in the 'recovery position' and effectively keep the person's airway open while they sleep. The Somnowell is small, discreet, and comfortable. You place it in your mouth before you go to sleep, and you can even talk, drink, and take medication with it in. Research has shown that patients prefer a mandibular advancement device to CPAP.