What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep Apnoea occurs when someone holds their breath during sleeping, or stops breathing many times during the night.
We all know nothing good happens when we stop breathing!
Types Of Symptoms Experienced:
- Holding one’s breath many times while sleeping
- Disrupted sleep
- Restless sleep
- Wetting the bed (common in children)
- Tiredness in the morning (Adults), but not too much for children
- Blocked nose
- Cough or wheeze during the night
- Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
- Adults can experience daytime headaches and cardiac complications
- Behavioural changes in children eg ADD, ADHD
- Children often display poor concentration and learning difficulties in school
Dangers Of Sleep Apnoea:
- If breathing stops, it can lead to Heart Failure and kill you.
- Research has shown that Sleep Apnoea can cause Brain Damage.
- It can also cause an increase in Blood Pressure and Heart Disease; in fact it will reduce your life expectancy by about 10 years.
There are 2 types of Sleep Apnoea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
- Central Sleep Apnoea.
What causes Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?
Anything that makes the airway narrow e.g:
- E.N.T problems such as enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids.
- Tongue falling back into the throat during sleep.
This can happen particularly if a person’s lower jaw is sitting too far back relative to their upper jaw. When the body relaxes during sleep the tongue, which is attached to the lower jaw, falls back into the airway causing the blockage or obstruction. The further back the lower jaw is set, the more the tongue obstructs it. This problem is made worse if the person sleeps on their back.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea:
- E.N.T surgery may be required to remove the Adenoids and / or Tonsils.
- The lower Jaw may be mechanically brought forward using an Anti-Snoring device. Standard inexpensive devices may be bought over the counter, while ‘precision made’ devices can be manufactured by Dentists and / or Orthodontists familiar with Functional Jaw Orthopaedics.
- Weight Loss: If patients are over weight, the excessive fatty tissue around the throat area can impinge on airway space, so it is sensible to introduce a weight-loss program.
- In some cases patients may require specialised surgery to advance the lower jaw.
- Myofunctional Therapy. We are the only Practice in the country currently addressing, modifying, and correcting bad oral habits using Myofunctional Therapy.
Central Sleep Apnoea:
Believe it or not, this breathing stoppage is the brains way of keeping you alive!
Only about 5% of Sleep Apnoea patients have this condition. Central Sleep Apnoea cannot be cured by mechanically bringing the jaw forward.
This night-time interruption in breathing occurs due to abnormally low CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2) levels in the blood.
The breathing centre in our brain normally gets our bodies to breathe in air when Carbon Dioxide gas reaches what is known as our ‘Trigger Point’ (or the moment we inhale our next breathe)
When the level of Carbon Dioxide drops in our blood, it alters its pH (a measure of acidity / alkalinity) by making it increase. This in turn reduces the ability of Haemoglobin to release or ‘hand over’ Oxygen into the cells, whose function it is to make energy for us.
The only way the Brain can achieve Oxygen release into the cells and maintain our energy level, is to lower its pH, by allowing Carbon Dioxide BUILD UP in the blood. We must STOP BREATHING to do this.
When you STOP BREATHING:
- Carbon Dioxide level rises
- Blood pH drops, and the release of Oxygen into the cells to make energy, resumes!
- High Carbon Dioxide level = high energy
Thus, when you stop breathing, the Brain achieves exactly what it set out to do in order to keep you alive! When it does: WE START TO BREATHE NORMALLY AGAIN once normal levels of Carbon Dioxide are established.
How does a reduction in Carbon Dioxide Happen?
Mouth breathing allows too much vital Carbon Dioxide escape from our body particularly at night. Think of what might happen if you open a can of coke before bed, and leave it sitting on the bedside table?
Remember that this is a carbonated drink and full of ‘fizz’! Well?
Yes, all the ‘fizz’ would be gone in the morning!
The same thing happens to us if we sleep with our mouths open. We lose too much Carbon Dioxide, and we are low in energy, of ‘fizz’ in the morning.
Treatment for Central Sleep Apnoea:
Patients are often referred for a "Sleep Study". This requires an overnight stay in hospital where special records are taken of patients sleeping pattern, as well as blood tests to determine the level of blood gases.
Once the obvious E.N.T problems have been eliminated, it is VERY important to establish proper Nasal Breathing at night.
Nasal Breathing restores the correct gas levels in the blood, hence both normal breathing and proper sleep can be restored.
We advice patients to do Our Breathing Well Program or a Buteyko Breathing Program.
Severe Sleep Apnoea Patients:
When all else fails and Sleep Apnoea is severe and life threatening, then patients need to use a special machine at night that pumps air into the lungs. This machine is called a CPAP machine.