Snore no More

2011 October 19
by Asha Sood

Snoring is sometimes seen as a bit of an amusing joke, something people complain of their partners and discuss light heartedly. Many of us snore from time to time and this is usually harmless. Statistics from the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association show that 41.5 per cent of the UK’s adult population snores. Snoring can sometimes however be a symptom of a more serious sleeping disorder called sleep apnoea.  This is a relatively common condition which affects around 4 in 100 middle aged men and 2 in 100 middle aged women. The onset of the condition is most common in people aged 35 to 54, although those over 50 are more at risk. It is estimated that 60% of people over the age of 65 have
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).  According to Dr Tom Mackay of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, an expert in sleep disorders, there has been a “tidal wave” of cases. Over the last three years, the number of cases of sleep apnoea being diagnosed is more than those of lung cancer and emphysema combined.

Sleep apnoea causes disrupted breathing during sleep. It occurs when the soft tissue and muscles in the throat relax and collapse to such an extent that they totally block the airway, meaning the person is unable to breathe for 10 seconds or more. In order to restore airflow and breathe normally, the sleeper has to momentarily wake up, resulting in a large or ‘heroic snore’.  Symptoms of sleep apnoea include extreme tiredness, poor memory or concentration and headaches.  A lack of refreshing sleep may also mean sufferers are at increased risk of being involved in accidents when driving or in work related incidents. Worryingly, research has shown that a person sleep deprived due to OSA has the same impaired judgements as someone who is over the drink drive limit.

In July, Labour Leader Ed Miliband underwent surgery for his sleep apnoea. Whilst surgery is an option, many cases can be successfully treated with an anti-snoring appliance called the ‘Zx’ which comes from America. This appliance is similar to a gum shield and is worn over your upper teeth whilst sleeping. It pushes the jaw forward in order to prevent the airway from becoming blocked. The fitted anti-snoring dental appliance is not painful or uncomfortable but it may take some time to get used to it. It can be easily cleaned by soaking it in fresh water for a period of time every few days. This device is proven to reduce the symptoms of snoring and will allow you to breathe more easily. World renowned sleep expert Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University states that in many cases a professionally fitted dental appliance is an effective treatment for sleep apnoea.

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