Are you suffering from sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a sleeping disorder that often goes unrecognised for a long time. It is a serious condition that can significantly impact your health and wellbeing. If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnoea, know that, with the right treatment approach, there is relief.

How we treat sleep apnoea

Our multi-disciplinary team will diagnose the severity of your sleep apnoea and guide you towards the best treatment for your condition. Whether you require clinical treatment such as CPAP therapy, surgery or simply need to adjust your lifestyle, our team of experts provide ongoing support throughout your journey.

At Auckland Sleep we go beyond managing the symptoms of sleep apnoea. Our goal is to address the root cause of your condition to provide long-term relief.

Our treatment approach

Sleep Apnoea

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition where your airway becomes fully or partially blocked, causing you to stop and start breathing. Characterised by loud snoring, snorting, and gasping, sleep apnoea impairs your ability to reach a restful phase of sleep.

There are two types of sleep apnoea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA): this is the most common type of sleep apnoea, and occurs when the muscle in the back of the throat relaxes. In New Zealand, OSA affects at least 4% of men and 2% of women.
  • Central sleep apnoea (CSA): this is a much rarer condition that occurs when the brain sends the wrong signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious condition. A person who is experiencing sleep apnoea has little or no air entering their lungs, meaning the oxygen levels in their blood drop.

If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnoea, we highly recommend you book an appointment with a physician.

The symptoms of sleep apnoea

The symptoms of sleep apnoea are often first recognised by a bed partner. Sufferers of sleep apnoea may not realise they have a problem with sleep, attributing the negative symptoms to something else.

Common symptoms of sleep apnoea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up fatigued and feeling you have not had enough sleep
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Stopping breathing during sleep (reported by sleeping partner)
  • Day-time sleepiness
  • Poor concentration and forgetfulness
  • Frequent night-time awakening
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Bad temper and irritability
  • Morning headaches
  • Facial congestion or blocked ears from muscle tightness or grinding teeth

Sleep apnoea risk factors

While anyone can develop sleep apnoea, some people are more susceptible than others. Several factors can increase your risk of sleep apnoea, including:

  • Being overweight – excess weight around the neck puts pressure on the throat, narrowing the airway.
  • Taking sleeping pills, alcohol, or other sedatives – these can cause excessive relaxation of the muscles in the neck.
  • Having a narrow airway – you may have a naturally narrow throat (this can be heredity or the result of enlarged tonsils or adenoid).
  • Nasal blockage or congestion – a nasal obstruction could be either anatomical or the result of seasonal allergies.
  • Smoking – smokers are three times more likely to experience sleep apnoea than non-smokers.

Clinical treatments and therapies

For moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnoea, clinical therapies are used to relieve symptoms. Common treatments for sleep apnoea include the following:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): a pump that delivers air pressure through a mask to maintain an open airway while you sleep. The amount of air pressure used will vary, depending on the individual. Many participants in CPAP therapy experience a noticeable effect, achieving restful, restorative sleep.
  • Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP): a variation of CPAP that provides more pressure as you inhale and less pressure upon exhale.
  • Dental appliances: custom-made mandibular advancement devices (MAD) ease the jaw forward and hold the tongue in a position that maintains an open airway. A dentist or orthodontist is required to fit these to your mouth.
  • Positional therapy: sleeping on your side can allow breathing to return to normal. Positional therapy uses a device, attached to your waist or back, which prevents you from lying on your back.
  • Surgery: may be an option, particularly for those with blocked nose, enlarged tonsils and adenoids or jaw abnormalities. Surgery can correct issues with nasal blockage or congestion and remove excess tissue from the throat.
  • Selective upper airway stimulation (UAS): a procedure to synchronise tongue movement while breathing by inserting an implant that stimulates the hypoglossal nerve (responsible for muscles in the tongue). This keeps the tongue resting forward and prevents it from collapsing into the back of the throat.

Alleviating / curing sleep apnoea with lifestyle changes

Studies reveal a strong correlation between lifestyle changes and sleep apnoea treatment success. Even those who have seen success with clinical treatment can see their improvements regress when returning to unhealthy habits or routines.

In many cases, lifestyle adjustments will treat the cause of sleep apnoea, rather than just relieve symptoms. In the long run, you will notice improvements in your sleep quality when you:

  • Lose weight – a healthier diet and some regular exercise will go a long way in managing sleep apnoea. As little as 10% weight loss significantly reduces the number of sleep apnoea episodes a person experiences each night.
  • Quit smoking – cigarettes irritate the upper airway and respiratory system. Over time, smoking can cause the throat and upper airway to swell.
  • Cut back on alcohol and sedatives – using alcohol or sleep aides to get to sleep is counterproductive as they will increase the number of sleep apnoea episodes you will have each night.

Getting a diagnosis

Many things can cause disrupted sleep. This can make diagnosing sleep apnoea difficult. If you suspect you may have sleep apnoea, you should make an appointment to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (an otolaryngologist). We recommend that your partner comes with you to the appointment as they can often describe your symptoms in greater detail.

At the appointment, the otolaryngologist will look at your throat for signs of narrowing and may perform tests to confirm a sleep apnoea diagnosis. These tests may require an overnight stay where you are monitored while you sleep. This will determine whether you have sleep apnoea and how severe the condition is.

Get a diagnosis

If you are worried about your sleep apnoea, make an appointment to see our sleep specialist.

If you want to learn how your sleep apnoea is affecting you and what treatments can help, take our sleep test.

Auckland Sleep provides a multi-faceted approach to treating sleep disorders. Our goal is to provide the best possible sleep treatments, accessible to everyone in the community.