Sleep apnoea is a condition that happens during sleep. Apnoea literally means “no breath” or “stopped breathing”. When an individual has sleep apnoea, air stops flowing into their lungs for 10 seconds or longer, and during this period, the individual ceases to breathe.
Most of the time, the individual suffering does not realize the condition. It can happen more than 30 times an hour, and constant triggering of breathing can put a strain on the body. Many people report feelings of exhaustion even waking up after a full night of sleep, and this can cause long-term effects on health.
There are two main types of sleep apnoea – obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnoea.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common type of sleep apnoea. It occurs when your upper airways become blocked or partially blocked during sleep. In an attempt to bypass the narrowing, air is forced through the obstruction in a turbulent airflow that is interpreted as snoring. A narrow passage will cause loud snoring, and when air is unable to pass through the obstruction, apnoea occurs. Individuals that wake up during this episode describe an uncomfortable choking sensation that can be frightening to some.
On the other hand, central sleep apnoea is not as common. This sleep apnoea takes place when the brain does not signal to the body to take a breath. The individual does not make an attempt to breathe, which does not result in much snoring. As such, central sleep apnoea usually goes unnoticed by many.
Common symptoms of sleep apnoea include the following:
During a visit to a sleep apnoea centre, doctors will conduct an interview with the patient to learn more about their sleeping habits. To determine the type of sleep apnoea the patient is suffering from, a video nasendoscopy will be done to find out if there are obstructions in the upper respiratory airways. A physical examination of the jaw, mouth and neck will also be performed as well.
To diagnose the severity of obstructive or central sleep apnoea, a sleep study will be conducted as well. There are two types of sleep studies:
Ambulatory sleep study, which is performed at home.
Polysomnography sleep study, which is performed at a hospital or in a specialist sleep lab with overnight monitoring.
Both results from the studies will help to guide the sleep apnoea treatment plan.
Sleep apnoea treatment helps treat breathing problems like sleep apnoea and chronic snoring, giving patients a much healthier sleep overall. There are various sleep apnoea treatments that doctors will recommend patients to have depending on their sleep study results.
Combination of CPAP therapy and weight loss: The CPAP treatment involves the patient wearing a mask over his/her mouth and nose areas during sleep. The mask is connected to a machine that will deliver a constant air pressure to prevent the upper respiratory airways from collapsing. This allows the patient to breathe more normally while sleeping.
Lifestyle changes and weight loss: This can help to reduce the amount of tissue around the neck area, which decreases obstruction in the upper airways.
Surgery: For certain patients that show insufficient signs of improvement after previous treatments, surgery may be considered as a last resort. Surgery for sleep apnoea will target the narrow passages in the upper airways. Depending on the patient’s suitability, doctors can conduct minimally invasive procedures like turbinate reduction, or more extensive ones like UPPPT (uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty with tonsillectomy) that removes certain tissues in the throat.
Most treatments for sleep apnoea are relatively safe, however, there can still be risks associated. CPAP therapy can sometimes cause discomfort in patients when wearing bulky and constrictive equipment to sleep. There have been reports of feelings of bloatedness caused by the high pressure that leads to patients eating and swallowing air when they sleep.
Like any invasive procedures, surgery for sleep apnoea can have complications. Such risks include significant bleeding, problems with anaesthesia, airway issues and allergic reactions. Moreover, there is still a chance for sleep apnoea to reappear even years after the procedure, making it necessary for patients to rely on CPAP and dental devices to keep the severity of sleep apnoea low.
At Amandela ENT Head & Neck Center, we provide subspecialty care that you can trust and rely on throughout your recovery journey. Talk to our leading sleep apnoea and snoring specialists to get expert advice and support for sleep apnoea treatments today.
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