What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a treatable sleep related breathing disorder that affects many people and is largely undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnoea 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 apnoea. The causes of snoring and sleep apnoea are closely related and could be considered part of the same spectrum of sleep related breathing disorders. In people with obstructive sleep apnoea 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 apnoea 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 apnoea raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and robs the body of oxygen. The apnoeas also lead to sleep deprivation for the sufferer.

Sleep apnoea 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 apnoea 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 apnoea 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.