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Snoring & Sleep Apnoea: Causes & Treatment Options

Woman lying in bed covering head with hands

A good night’s sleep is, no doubt, very important for our health and well-being. And many of us would even think that snoring means the sleeper is having a restful sleep. Or is it? 

Actually, snoring is normal for many people—even children and babies snore when they sleep. What’s bad is when snoring has become too loud and a frequent habit. This is called apnoea. Let’s find out more about these two and the treatment options you can choose from.  

What is Sleep Apnoea? 

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times throughout the night. There are three main types of sleep apnoea: 

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA): The most common form of sleep apnoea caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes. When it does, it blocks air from coming into the lungs. 
  • Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA): Occurs when the brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing. 
  • Complex Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: This type of sleep apnoea is now called treatment-emergent central apnoea. This happens when someone receiving therapy from OSA has developed into CSA. 


What Causes Sleep Apnoea? 

There can be many different causes that contribute to the development of sleep apnoea.  Understanding these causes can help in identifying and managing the condition effectively. These are the factors that can cause sleep apnoea, whether it’s OSA, CSA, or complex sleep apnoea: 

  • Excess Weight: Apparently, our weight can also impact our riskiness of getting sleep apnoea. In a study, it has been shown that obesity is a significant risk factor to it as excess fat around the neck can obstruct the airway. 
  • Age: Sleep apnoea is more common in older adults. 
  • Gender: It is said that men are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop sleep apnoea than women. 
  • Family History: Having a family history of sleep apnoea can also increase your risk of getting the disorder. 
  • Alcohol and Smoking: Consuming alcohol and tobacco frequently can contribute to airway inflammation. These will also be likely to relax the muscles that can control the airway. 
  • Nasal Congestion: Difficulty breathing through the nose, whether due to an anatomical issue or allergies, can contribute to sleep apnoea. 
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions such as hypothyroidism, acromegaly, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are associated with an increased risk of sleep apnoea. 

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea 

Recognising the symptoms of sleep apnoea is crucial for seeking timely treatment. Common symptoms include: 

  • Loud snoring 
  • Episodes of stopped breathing during sleep 
  • Gasping for air during sleep 
  • Morning headaches 
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability and mood changes 
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking 


The Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnoea 

While snoring and sleep apnoea are quite related to one another, they are still two different conditions. When air flows past relaxed throat tissues, and causes them to vibrate, that’s where a snore is released. It’s very common and typically harmless, but it can be triggered by factors like alcohol, allergies, or sleep position. 

Sleep apnoea, however, involves repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. This seemingly harmless interruption leads to significant health risks, such as cardiovascular problems, daytime fatigue, and an increased risk for accidents. Unlike occasional snoring, a person who has sleep apnoea needs medical attention due to its chronic nature and potential for severe health consequences. 

Sleep Apnoea Treatment Options 

There are various sleep apnoea treatment options available, ranging from lifestyle changes to medical interventions. The appropriate treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying causes. 

Lifestyle Changes 

What’s great about sleep apnoea is when it’s detected in its early stages, it can be easily treated by lifestyle modifications, including: 

  • Weight Loss: Reducing excess weight can significantly improve symptoms. 
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce sleep apnoea severity. 
  • Avoiding Alcohol and Smoking: These habits can intensify sleep apnoea symptoms, so trying to avoid, or stop them completely, can change your condition.  
  • Sleep Position: Sleeping on your side rather than your back can help keep the airway open. 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) 

CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for moderate to severe OSA. It involves wearing a mask over the nose and/or mouth during sleep, which is connected to a machine that delivers a constant stream of air. This keeps the airway open, preventing apnoeas and snoring. 

Oral Appliance Therapy 

Oral appliances are typically customised by a dentist and can be an effective alternative to CPAP for some patients. These devices are worn in the mouth during sleep and work by repositioning the jaw or tongue to keep the airway open. 

Oral appliance therapy can be particularly beneficial for those with mild to moderate OSA or those who find CPAP uncomfortable. 

These are some oral appliances you can ask your dentist to design that can help manage sleep apnoea: 

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs): These are snoring mouthguards that move the lower jaw and tongue forward to keep the airway open. These are good for individuals who have mild OSA. 
  • Tongue Retaining Devices: These hold the tongue in a forward position to prevent it from blocking the airway. 
  • Pillar Procedure: A minimally invasive procedure that involves placing small implants in the soft palate to stiffen it and reduce airway collapse. 



In case the above options are not effective at all, maybe surgery is the next best thing.  Types of surgery for sleep apnoea include: 

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This surgery removes tissue from the back of the throat and palate to widen the airway. 
  • Genioglossus Advancement (GA): Repositions the muscle that attaches the tongue to the lower jaw, preventing airway collapse. 
  • Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA): MMA involves moving the upper and lower jaw forward to enlarge the airway. 
  • Tracheostomy: This includes creating a direct airway through an opening in the neck, typically reserved for severe, life-threatening cases. 


For Better Sleeps and Oral Health 

Sleep apnoea is a serious condition that can have significant health implications if left untreated. Recognising the symptoms and understanding what causes sleep apnoea are the first steps towards effective management.  

If you suspect you have sleep apnoea or struggle with chronic snoring, maybe our dental appliances will help you treat your disorder. Our experienced team at Blue Gum Dental is here to guide you through your treatment options and provide personalised care. 

Schedule an appointment today and take the first step towards a healthier, restful night’s sleep. 

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