Understanding Sleep Apnoea

By: Jason McKenzie

Whilst you are sleeping your body will relax, a large amount of the muscles will become floppy. This is essential for a good night?s sleep. When the muscles in your throat are relaxed or go floppy this may cause your airway to narrow. This may cause the collapse of the throat. In the beginning the narrowing of your airways will cause snoring, but it can soon progress onto apnoea, stopping you from breathing completely. Your body will sense this narrowing or the throat and you will wake up briefly, take a few deep breaths and then go back to sleep before suffocation. When the throat narrows to this extent and apnoea occurs it will often become a cycle, happening many times every night.

What are the main causes of Sleep Apnoea?

Primarily, sleep apnoea is caused by the narrowing of your airways at the back of your mouth behind the tongue. Anything which blocks your airway at night may contribute to the problem, including enlarged tonsils (if you have tonsillitis) or a set-back lower jaw. If you are overweight this is most likely to be the cause of a narrowing of your airway. Natural breathing may be a problem if you are overweight, the extra fat cells in the neck may push on the airways causing them to narrow and eventually close.

Who can be effected by sleeping apnoea?

The typical type of person who suffers with sleep apnoea is middle-aged men, they are also usually overweight. There are many people who have a normal BMI but still suffer with sleep apnoea, the reasons why they do can be a mystery. Tonsillitis may be a cause of sleep apnoea in young children, often leading to the child having ?their tonsils out?. Snoring and sleep apnoea is much more common than doctors and medical experts first thought, 3 in every 1000 men may be affected.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

If you feel like you have very little energy or feel excessively tired in the day time hours, this may be a sign that you have sleep apnoea. The feeling of being tired normally begins whilst you are reading a magazine or a book, or whilst doing boring things such as motorway driving or watching television. If the drowsiness gets worse, some people may even start falling asleep during eating or even talking.. Falling asleep whilst driving can be fatal for the person with sleep apnoea, passengers and other road users. Under performing at work may be another result causing the sufferer to lose his or her job. There may be a history of heavy snoring, which has become unbearable by the people around you.

Sleep Apnoea Treatment

There are many simple methods which may help in cases of mild sleep apnoea, losing weight, stopping drinking, giving up smoking or even sleeping on your side / front are all ways which may help with snoring and sleep apnoea. There are many medical devices available in the UK to help prevent sleep apnoea, including sprays, splints and perhaps the most effective of these devices, sleep apnoea mouthguards or mandibular advancement devices.

There is one main treatment for people with problematic sleep apnoea, CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure. To help stop sleep apnoea, continuous positive airway pressure devices provide a constant flow of air through a mask worn by the patient whilst they are asleep, this flow of air prevents the throat from closing up entirely stopping the snoring and preventing sleep apnoea. The response is usually dramatic with greatly improved sleep and disappearance of the daytime sleepiness. Although these devices are cumbersome to wear, and hardly improve one's appearance, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages with the vast majority of patients deciding to use their machines every night at home after a one night trial in hospital.

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Jason works as a health adviser at Tower Health in nottingham, Tower Health are the UK distributors of TheraSnore Stop Snoring Device.

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