Mandibular advancement device to treat snoring on bedside table

About Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a serious condition that can affect your quality of sleep and your overall health. It causes your airway to temporarily close, stopping you from being able to breathe.

The first symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is usually snoring. Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the airway, particularly at the back of the throat. If your airway narrows too much when you’re asleep, the air you breathe is then pulled through it faster. This causes the soft tissue in the back of your throat to dehydrate and vibrate. The sound you hear is what most people know as snoring.

In some cases, the airway becomes so narrow that the walls of the airway stick together and close up. This usually happens for 10-30 seconds but can occur for longer – sometimes up to 50 times an hour or even more. When the airway finally opens up again, you’ll produce a loud, violent snore. This is known as an apnoea. Sometimes the airway may not fully close, but becomes so narrow that you experience an oxygen drop in your blood. This is called a hypopnoea. Frequent apnoea’s and hypopneas mean you most likely have OSA.

Throughout the night, your body will constantly ‘wake itself up’ to a lighter stage of sleep in order to breathe. This is why many people with OSA feel so tired the following day.

All forms of sleep apnoea mean that you’re getting less oxygen circulating in your blood than your body needs. Evidence shows that untreated OSA often leads to high blood pressure. This increases your risk of serious medical conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. OSA has also been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Feeling excessively sleepy during the daytime can also cause problems in day-to-day life. A lack of quality sleep is linked to depression, poor focus and mood swings. Feeling tired can also significantly affect your reaction times, making tasks like driving very dangerous.

Mandibular advancement device to treat loud snoring and sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea can affect people of any age. Risk factors for OSA include:

  • Being overweight. Excess fat around the neck can put pressure on the airway, making it more difficult to breathe.
  • Being male. It’s not known why, but sleep apnoea is more common in men than in women.
  • Being aged 40 or over. Although sleep apnoea can occur at any age, it’s more common in people over the age of 40.
  • Alcohol. Drinking a lot can lead to weight gain, which significantly increases the risk of sleep apnoea.
  • Having a large neck. Having a collar size of 17 inches (43cm) increases your chances of developing sleep apnoea.
  • Smoking. Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway which can result in breathing difficulties.
  • Menopause. The changes in hormone levels during the menopause can cause your throat muscles to relax more than usual.
  • Genetic disposition. If sleep apnoea runs in the family, there may be genes inherited from your parents that can make you more susceptible to sleep apnoea.
  • Nasal congestion. OSA occurs more often in people with nasal congestion.

Signs of sleep apnoea when awake include:

  • Frequently waking up with a headache
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (still feeling tired after a full night’s sleep)
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Depression

Signs of sleep apnoea when asleep include:

  • Excessive or loud snoring
  • Periods of laboured breathing
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Frequent toilet trips during the night

If you suspect that you have sleep apnoea, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first. They’ll be able to give you an official diagnosis and recommend the treatment most suitable for you.

Lifestyle changes

If you’re diagnosed with OSA, making some changes to your lifestyle could greatly improve your condition. These include:

    • Losing weight
    • Quitting smoking
    • Getting more exercise
    • Reducing your alcohol intake
Woman using custom-fit mandibular advancement device

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

If you’re diagnosed with OSA in the UK, one of the main treatments approved by the NHS is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

CPAP users are issued with a machine and mask that’s worn over the nose and mouth during sleep. It works by increasing the air pressure in your upper airway and throat. This helps to keep your airway open, allowing you to breathe normally.

Although CPAP is an effective treatment, it can be uncomfortable and noisy. Studies show that up to 60% of patients abandon CPAP. If you’re currently using a CPAP machine but finding it difficult to tolerate, it can be dangerous to stop treatment. Always speak to your doctor first to find out whether other options are suitable for treating your OSA.

Oral Devices/Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

Another NHS-approved treatment option for OSA is an Oral Device (sometimes called mandibular advancement devices, snoring mouthpieces, or snoring mouth guards). These devices are similar to gum shields, and they work by holding your jaw forward (or simply stopping it from falling backwards) during sleep. This helps to keep your airway open, stopping it from collapsing during the night. You should find that you’re able to breathe easily and quietly.

Which treatment is best for me?

Mild/moderate OSA
If you have mild-to-moderate sleep apnoea, there’s a good chance you can treat it successfully by making lifestyle changes and using an oral device. You can find out more about how the Snoreeze Oral Device treats mild-to-moderate OSA by clicking here.

Severe OSA
If your sleep apnoea is severe, the most effective treatment for you will most likely be a CPAP machine (although some people find that an oral device still works well for them, or works well in combination with CPAP). Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best way to manage your OSA.