What is Sleep Disordered Breathing?
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a general term encompassing several chronic conditions in which partial or complete cessation of breathing occurs many times during the night. It includes snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea.
Snoring is the harsh noise that occurs when tissues in the upper airway vibrate as you breathe.
Most people snore occasionally but for some people snoring is a chronic problem which can have a significant impact on the quality of life of their partner or other family members.
Snoring can occur in isolation, known as primary snoring but it is more commonly associated with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the cessation of airflow due to collapse of the upper airway. There is loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops. You then wake up, usually with a loud gasping noise.
This pattern repeats throughout the night resulting in poor quality sleep, restless sleep, waking up in the morning feeling tired and unrefreshed, feeling excessively tired during the day and having difficulty concentrating.
OSA also has other long-term health consequences including increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and an accident at work or in the car.
What causes Sleep Disordered Breathing?
The causes of sleep disordered breathing are complex.
There is usually a combination of multiple factors underlying SDB. These include increased weight, sleep position, alcohol intake, poor tone of the muscles of the throat, body and neck shape, anatomic factors such as large tonsils and nasal blockage and genetic factors.
What is the management of SDB?
The management of SDB is complex and variable.
Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoidance of alcohol before bed, avoidance of sleeping on your back and nasal decongestants are important management strategies.
Oral splints or mandibular advancement splints which advance the position of your jaw and tongue to keep your airway open may be helpful.
Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP therapy is the most reliable and effective treatment for SDB. This involves wearing a mask over your nose or mouth while asleep. The mask blows air down your airway to keep it open and eliminates snoring by stopping the throat tissues from vibrating.
In selected cases, upper airway surgery can be beneficial especially if there are anatomic abnormalities such as large tonsils or a blocked nose which can be corrected.
At WestsideENT, we work closely with our sleep physician colleagues to jointly manage patients with snoring and OSA.
Your WestsideENT specialist will carry out a comprehensive assessment which includes a fibreoptic examination of your upper airways.
Arrangements will also be made for you to have a sleep study or polysomnography if indicated.
We will discuss our examination findings and the results of the sleep study with you and determine an individual management plan for you in consultation with our sleep physician colleagues.