Untreated Sleep Apnoea Could Cut 10 To 20 Years Off Your Life

The body and mind need sleep in order to function properly. Sleep apnoea, or constantly stopping and starting breathing at night, is one of the things holding millions of people back from sleeping properly.

Sleep Apnea

 

It often goes undiagnosed, but it comes with surprisingly apparent symptoms that can significantly worsen your quality of life and also shorten it.

If you look at some of the most commonly treated conditions in any country of the world right now such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and headaches – all of these can be medically associated with an obstructed airway.

Doctors say a healthier lifestyle including proper diet, exercise and weight loss can prevent sleep apnoea from occurring. However, if you’re experiencing multiple symptoms, you should speak with your physician.

It is a common problem among all ages and both genders, but don’t let snoring ruin your relationship or a good night’s sleep. Learn what causes snoring and how you can put it to bed with our expert advice.  If your partner has ever told you that you snore, bear in mind the danger you might be putting yourself in every single time that it happens. It may mean that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Some heavy, regular snorers have sleep apnoea, a condition where the airways become completely blocked during sleep with symptoms that include large pauses in breathing, leaving them waking-up gasping for air. Many heavy snorers tend to wake themselves frequently in sleep, with the resulting patchy sleep leading to daytime sleepiness. Regardless of whether it’s snoring or sleep apnoea, it can easily and quickly be prevented.

Even for those who sleep alone, snoring is no laughing matter. According to the National Sleep Foundation in the USA, regular heavy snorers are more likely to experience thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery, which can lead to atherosclerosis; a hardening of the arteries that is known to trigger numerous vascular diseases.

Daytime grogginess, irritability and mood swings, problems concentrating and remembering, and an increased likelihood of car or other types of accidents are just some of the complications arising from interrupted, snore-ridden sleep. Since almost half of us regularly snore, isn’t it worth knowing what’s likely to be causing it, and what are the most effective measures of putting it to bed?

Products are available to open the airway. The C-PAP machine is one of the most recognisable treatments, and is used to prevent both snoring and sleep apnoea. Other less aggressive options include custom-fitted mouthpieces that reposition your jaw and open your upper airways so you can get more oxygen while you sleep. Other types that you can shape for yourself are easily available and both kinds are medically approved.

SleepPro oral appliances are not only rated by the NHS in Britain as the top performing products in their extensive regular tests, but are also issued directly to patients who consult many of their Specialist Sleep Clinics. The NHS results were published in the Lancet in 2014, but regular testing still continues to ensure the correct products stay at the top of their recommendation list – position that SleepPro still enjoys.

There at least 120 such oral appliances licensed in the US, for example, but all are variations of the original appliance and stick to the same principle. The prices vary greatly and is another reason stated by the British NHS for using SleepPro, as affordability is considered to be important too.

While Mandibular Advancement Appliances (MAD’s) can be bought over the counter, or online, it usually pays long-term to have a customised one made and fitted to your dental profile. It feels more comfortable, works better and lasts longer. Having a custom-made one can, in time, become much more cost effective, and more effective overall.

It’s vitally important to remember that OSA is a serious medical condition and it should never be ignored – but it should be prevented.

John Redfern


Research proves that you can’t be both ‘Fat’ and ‘Fit’

The new research was announced first at the European Congress on Obesity that took place last week in Portugal. The idea that people can be fat, but medically fit, is a myth, say those involved. Their early work, which is as yet unpublished, involved looking at the GP records of 3.5 million people in the UK for the 20 years from 1995 to 2015, but applies worldwide.

Beautiful Slim Woman Measuring Her Waistline With A Measuring Tape

Beautiful Slim Woman Measuring Her Waistline With A Measuring Tape

The term “fat but fit” refers to the theory that if people are obese, but all their other metabolic factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar are within recommended limits, then the extra weight will not be harmful.

They tracked people who were obese at the start of the study (defined as people with a body mass index of 30 or more) who had no evidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes at this point.

They found these people who were obese but “metabolically healthy” were at higher risk of developing heart disease, strokes and heart failure than people of normal weight.

Dr Mike Knapton, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s not often that research on this scale and magnitude is able to clarify an age-old myth.

“These findings should be taken extremely seriously and I’d urge healthcare professionals to take heed.”

“What was new from this study for me is that it showed that people who were overweight or obese were at increased risk of heart disease even though they may have been healthy in every other respect.

“Just being overweight puts you at increased risk of heart attack and stroke.”

According to the British Heart Foundation, the normal heart health advice applies – not smoking, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and limiting alcohol intake – can all help keep people healthy. However other studies have suggested that is not always the amount of fat that matters but where the excess fat is carried on the body that can affect fitness and health. For example, weight around the middle may be more damaging than weight distributed evenly around the body.

Being overweight can exacerbate an existing milder snoring problem, because one of the primary causes of the turbulence in the throat is the narrowing of the airway due to neck fat. Losing weight can help alleviate the problem by reducing fat in the neck and helping to open the airway.

Technically, snoring is the sound of air turbulence in the back of the throat caused by a narrowing of the airway, and the sound of someone snoring is really the sound of someone who is having difficulty in breathing. The most frequent myth about snoring is that it is harmless or even humorous. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is widely recognised that snoring is a sign of a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder if not prevented or controlled. It also causes ‘snacking’ which is associated with sleep disorders generally.

Snoring is a common condition that can affect anyone, although it occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight and because of this it has a tendency to worsen with age.

When trying to locate the cause or causes for your snoring, you need to be methodical because without identifying where the source of the problem lies, it may prove difficult to cure. The first thing to consider is body fat, as obese people are very likely to snore. In short, men are more prone to putting on fat in the neck area than women; fat which squashes the throat, leaving less room to breathe.

Products are readily available to open the airway. The C-PAP machine is one of the most recognizable treatments, and is used to prevent both snoring, and sleep apnoea.

It’s easier though to purchase and use an appliance that uses a method called boil-and-bite and shapes it to your dental profile, and SleepPro have a range of these that are both inexpensive and simple to use. You bite into it as you do a sports mouth guard and it keeps the jaw in a stable position.

Other options include custom-fitted mouthpieces provided by dentists, but these are very expensive, and the same custom-fitted alternatives can be bought online for much less. They are equally effective and have been thoroughly tested by the NHS who list the range of UK made SleepPro products as their top recommendation, and even issue them to patients.

Losing weight is the ideal answer but in the meantime help is available this way, and together they offer a great joint solution.

John Redfern


80% of loud snorers who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it

Obstructive sleep apnoea, often referred to as OSA, is characterised by loud snoring that occurs before a person stops breathing and is a condition that causes the throats of sufferers to close up while they sleep, meaning their brain has to continually wake them up from a deep sleep in order to reopen the throat muscles.

BBC Image

Watch this BBC NEWS film that describes Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

The breathing pause can last a few seconds or several minutes and may happen many times during the night. It has been linked to daytime sleepiness and a host of other diseases.

Risk factors for sleep apnoea include obesity, being over the age of 55, and smoking. Tests have proven that sleep apnoea can be hereditary, and men outnumber women among those who are afflicted with the disease. Consequently, stopping smoking or taking dietary precautions prompting weight loss can reduce or even eliminate the effects of many sleep disorders. However, no age group is immune to a sleep disorder.

The overall number of people with OSA is known to be increasing due to major lifestyle problems such as more people now being overweight. Actual numbers are difficult to record as most cases go undiagnosed, but the increased number of nationwide Sleep Disorder Centres in the USA gives us a good idea of the growth of OSA. They have risen in total from 2.280 in 2010 to just over 2,850 in 2016. Their estimated revenue shows OSA is costing $7 billion per year, estimated to rise to $10 billion by 2020.

 

Similar figures exist for other countries but the economic impact of sleep apnoea extends beyond the economic revenue for those who are treated the disease. The annual economic burden of undiagnosed sleep apnoea in the USA is about $149.6 billion, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This includes nearly $87 billion in lost productivity, $26 billion in car crashes and $6.5 billion in workplace accidents.

Untreated sleep apnoea leads to a host of other serious health problems including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and depression. As a result, undiagnosed sleep leads to $30 billion a year in increased health care costs. The AASM estimates if everyone who suffers from sleep apnoea received treatment, it would create a savings of just over $100 billion.

Chronic sufferers are advised to use CPAP machines every night when they sleep and this involves wearing a mask that fits over their nose, or their nose and also their mouth. The device increases air pressure in a patient’s throat, prevents the airway from collapsing, and eliminates obstructed breathing.

However a high number of patients struggle to adjust to CPAP machines and use other approved medical solutions and treatments such as an oral appliance that shifts the lower jaw forward opening airways during sleep. This Mandibular Adjustment Device (MAD) will successfully address the problem of obstruction of the airway and restore normal sleep.

As said earlier, men have a higher risk of sleep apnoea, but recent studies are finding that women who have experienced menopause have the same risk as men. Weight and genetics also have an impact.

Some patients seek treatment after a partner complains about their loud snoring, or gaps in their breathing, but for those who live alone it might be tougher to diagnose.

Snoring is a common phenomenon, but some snorers may require medical treatment so they should look for the following key indicators that may indicate that they have sleep apnoea. These include daytime fatigue, lapses into sleep during the day, and impairment of normal activity.

If snoring results in them having headaches in the morning, suffer from bouts of irritability, or have any of the other symptoms, or if it disturbs their partner, then they should seek to prevent this by using an oral appliance (MAD) which does not need a Doctor’s prescription, and do so immediately, and in severe cases they should seek out immediate medical advice.

John Redfern


Poor Sleep is blamed for a wide range of health, work and social problems

Sleep is important for biological recovery and takes around a third of our time each and every day. Low quality sleep, particularly that interrupted by snoring and other sleep disorders, may be depriving people of as much as two years worth of sleep over their lifetime.
Woman lying in bed sleepless

Sleep experts agree that chronic poor sleep in general, and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in particular for anyone, but especially for older adults, can even be fatal.

A large-scale study (1) of over 160,000 people found that there was a clear association between sleep problems and the debilitating effects of a heart attack or stroke. A bad night’s sleep raises the risk of potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes and experts warn women are at higher risk because they are more prone to insomnia.

Difficulty getting off to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up not feeling refreshed increased the risks by 27 per cent, 11 per cent, and 18 per cent respectively. Women are at a slightly higher risk than men as they are more prone to insomnia because of differences in genetics, sex hormones and their reaction to stress.

Insomnia is a common problem regularly afflicting around one in every four adults. Sleep is therefore vital to all of us as restorative time and plays a significant role in healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. It also gives the immune system and the cardiovascular system a rest and allows other organs to be restored.

The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (1) and looked at the connection between insomnia symptoms and incidents or death from cardiovascular disease, including those from acute myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease and heart failure, or stroke, or a combination of issues.

However other factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure contribute significantly more to the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke than sleep problems do.

A spokesperson from The Sleep Council said: “This shows people must prioritise sleep as it’s as important as exercise and diet. People should have a sleep routine with regular bed-time and waking times and make sure they get as much fresh air and natural daylight as possible.”

Professor Valery Gafarov, of the World Health Organisation, said: “Sleep is not a trivial issue.”

Separate research has found that a sleep disorder might be as bad for triggering a heart attack or stroke as smoking or failing to exercise and that people who get less than seven hours are up to four times more likely to suffer a stroke and double their risk of a heart attack.

These research studies were extensively covered on BBC News (2) as well as the ITV show ‘This Morning’ and in both the Daily Express and other international newspapers including The Huffington Post.

The BBC found further research and stressed in its coverage that sleep loss had a serious effect on the school or working day, and that erratic and disruptive behaviour can be caused by even a single night’s loss of sleep. Lack of sleep does not only mean tired workers, says the study, but can also cause “unwanted” activity, which it links to lower levels of self-control.

In addition to this, tiredness brings personal danger to the individual, and to many others, when associated with either driving or handling machinery.

The study, published by the Rotterdam School of Management (2) says that such sleep-related disruption can cost billions in lost productivity.

Millions of people worldwide, including an estimated 80 million in the USA, suffer from some form of sleep problem, and nearly 60 per cent of them have a chronic sleep disorder that can harmfully affect their overall health and well-being. Two of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia and sleep apnoea and if you suffer from either then you should seek professional help and guidance.

John Redfern

Sources:    (1)    European Society of Cardiology Research Report
                           (2)  BBC News


One third of us are said to suffer from Bruxism – but what is it?

Bruxism is the habit of clenching, gnashing or grinding your teeth. Your teeth are not meant to be clenched and in contact all the time; they should only briefly touch each other when you swallow or chew.

Woman put mouth guard on teeth

Woman put mouth guard on teeth

When happening during sleep, bruxism is considered as a sleep-related disorder, and people who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring or sleep apnoea.

If teeth are in contact too often or too forcefully, it can wear down the tooth enamel, which is the outer layer that covers each tooth. Without this to protect the inner parts of your teeth, you may develop dental problems. Clenching or grinding your teeth regularly can also lead to pain in the jaw or in the muscles of the face. Bruxism mostly happens during sleep, but some people also suffer from this when awake.

Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems.

Because you may have sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
  • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Jaw or face pain or soreness
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles
  • Pain that feels like an earache,
  • Dull headache originating in the temples
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek

We don’t completely understand what causes bruxism but possible physical or psychological causes may include an incredibly wide range of factors including tension, stress, sleep apnoea, abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth, stomach acid reflux, Response to pain from an earache, and even complications resulting from a disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

In most cases, bruxism doesn’t cause serious complications. But severe bruxism may lead to damage to your teeth, restorations, crowns or jaw, headaches, facial pain and disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located just in front of your ears, which may sound like clicking when you open and close your mouth.

In many cases, treatment isn’t necessary. Many kids outgrow bruxism without treatment, and many adults don’t grind or clench their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However, if the problem is severe, treatment options include certain dental approaches, therapies and medications.

If you have bruxism, your doctor or dentist may suggest ways to preserve or improve your teeth that will prevent or correct the wear to your teeth.

The principal recommendation will be a Splint or a Mouth Guards. These are designed to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by clenching and grinding and are constructed of acrylic or soft materials and fit over your upper or lower teeth.

Correcting teeth that aren’t properly aligned may help if your bruxism seems to be related to dental problems. In severe cases when tooth wear has led to sensitivity or the inability to chew properly your dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or use crowns. In certain cases, your dentist may recommend braces or oral surgery.

It’s important to protect your teeth and prevent the problem worsening as soon as possible and splints are an inexpensive way of doing so. For under £15 you can purchase a splint that will shape to your dental profile using the ‘boil and bite’ method. For a little more money you can have made a custom-fitted version that fits just your upper set, or by special request the lower set, dependent on which is required. Both types are worn at night.

Either type will protect your teeth from further damage and help you sleep better. Many sufferers start with the ‘instant splint’ and then move on to the custom night guard for longer-term protection.

John Redfern


There is further proof that snoring damages the body and can kill you.

New evidence has been found which says that snoring can cause you to have a stroke as well as leading to a higher risk of bronchitis

    • The vibration from regular snoring causes damage and inflammation to the throat
    • This increases the risk of artherosclerosis and the chances of a stroke
    • It is considered as a factor in the development of chronic bronchitis
  • Stop snoring with SleepPro

Snoring can be infuriating if you are on the receiving end. But next time you feel forced to kick your partner out of bed for keeping you up all night, or take refuge in the spare room, bear in mind that anything more than an occasional snore could be a sign that they need medical help as it may have very serious negative health consequences.

Snoring always ranks as one of the most annoying habits with couples and it can affect you personally even if you don’t actually do it yourself. If you have a partner who snores, then you may find yourself suffering from a lack of sleep because of it, and this can lead to a number of problems, including increasing your risk for all kinds of different diseases and conditions.

However a less well-known fact from new emerging scientific research is proving that snoring isn’t just bad for you because it disrupts your sleep… it may also be bad for you because of what it can do to your throat! Far from something to be brushed off, these nocturnal noises are rarely benign.

The constant vibration of habitual snoring causes damage and inflammation to the throat, and may be linked to thickening of the carotid arteries, which run up the sides of the neck supplying the head with blood.

Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, say that this increases the risk of artherosclerosis, which is the ‘furring’ of the insides of the blood vessels, and as a result it greatly increases the chances of stroke.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the airway in the throat during sleep and causes loud snoring and periodic interruptions in breathing. It has long been linked to heart disease and a range of other serious health problems.

The condition is thought to affect about five per cent of the world’s adult population to some degree, with 250,000 Britons suffering what is considered to be a severe form of it. However, almost half of the population are thought to be habitual snorers, without OSA, and similar figures exist for most other developed nations. Australian Health figures recently quoted it as being 44% with the figures for the USA even higher than the UK.

In the Henry Ford study, experts reviewed data for more than 900 patients, aged 18 to 50, who had been evaluated by the institution’s sleep centre. None of the volunteers suffered from OSA. They completed a survey regarding their snoring and had scans of their carotid arteries.

Compared to non-snorers, snorers were found to have significantly thicker arterial walls, an early sign of cardiovascular disease.

Surprisingly, those with high cholesterol, diabetes and those who smoked did not have thickened carotid arteries, leading the researchers to suggest that snoring was the biggest health concern for these people.

The same vibrations in the throat have been suggested as a factor in the development of chronic bronchitis, inflammation of lower airways accompanied by a persistent cough and the production of mucus or phlegm.

Analysis found that individuals who snored six to seven times per week were 68 per cent more likely to develop the condition. The association was strongest in individuals who were overweight, but smoking was not a factor.

There are stop snoring remedies available online to prevent the problem, and no prescription is needed, but the fact of the matter is that if you are a habitual snorer then you need to take action quickly. Don’t let snoring affect your health when it can be such an easy problem to fix!

John Redfern


Why is Snoring on the increase everywhere?

No one wants to be a snorer, and many are concerned that doing so will keep others awake at night. But new YouGov research in the UK reveals it’s now actually abnormal not to snore, after the age of forty at least.

snore night

Overall 45% of people admit to being snorers. This ranges from 22% amongst 18-24 year olds to 55% amongst over 60s. Not only does the tendency to snore increase with age but also it is also more likely to do so if you are a man, as data shows that 51% of men snore compared to 40% of women.

The majority of couples over the age of 40 include a snorer. 55% of 40-59 year-olds say their partner snores, and 57% of those over-60. Among the group of men who were aged over 60, almost two-thirds were snorers.

In Australia, similar figures from the Sleep Health Foundation show that between 33 and 45 per cent of Aussies have poor sleep patterns that are often due to heavy snoring, and these lead to fatigue and irritability – putting them at risk of low productivity, damage to their mental health, unsafe driving and behavioural problems.

Director of the Sleep Health Foundation, Dr David Hillman said: “Just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our community.”

It’s getting worse in Australia too. The study found that the numbers of sleep problems among Australians are 5 to 10 per cent higher than when the Sleep Health Foundation published its last survey on sleep health in 2010.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by the soft tissue in your head and neck vibrating as you breathe in during your sleep. The soft tissue it can affect includes nasal passages, the soft palate, the base of the tongue and the tonsils.

As you get your nightly rest, the airways in your neck and head relax and narrow, which increases the speed at which you breathe. This also changes the air pressure in your airways, which in turn causes the soft tissue to vibrate, causing the snoring sound. The vibrations that happen during snoring are thought to weaken blood vessels and muscles in the head and neck. This further reduces the ability of the airways to keep open, meaning snoring is likely to be more frequently and even louder.

Some people snore so loudly that it can be heard in the next room and wakes up other members of their household. Others snore every single night and are virtually unable to sleep without making a noise. However, some people snore very infrequently and it only affects them if they are suffering from a cold or flu.

Does anything make snoring worse?

There are certain factors that can make snoring even worse because they cause the airways to narrow even further when a person is asleep and one of the main factors is obesity. A person with a neck circumference more than 17 inches sees extra pressure applied on the airways. In addition, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is also known to cause the airway to narrow, which in turn increases the risk of snoring.

Meanwhile certain sedatives and anti-depressants have shown to have the same affect on the airwaves as smoking and alcohol. Common allergies can also exacerbate snoring as substances such as pollen can cause the nose to become blocked.

Is there a cure for the snoring?

Although snoring can be treated to improve the effects there is no complete cure – but it can be prevented and significantly lessened as a problem. There’s a great deal of information available online which helps but some people will go to see their GP when their snoring starts to affect their sleeping patterns or is causing major problems in their relationship. Although it may surprise you, it is well documented that snoring is the third most important cause of divorce. In its most dangerous form, snoring can be one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea; something we’ve described in detail in our previous articles.

A chronic snorer should try changing their lifestyle first and lose weight, but there is also a range of medically approved anti-snoring devices available that help to minimise snoring, including mouth guards of various types that vary in type and cost to suit the individual and the degree of the problem.

John Redfern


What keeps us awake at night?

Wherever you live in the world, the media focus this week has been on sleep and the dangers when it is interrupted, but particularly if by snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea. In this week’s article we’re taking a quick world tour to review what has been said and to see if it differs country by country.

Woman Awake In Bed Suffering With Insomnia

Snoring is noisy, and a real nuisance, and it can take many forms. However it is pri­mar­ily caused by vi­bra­tions of the soft palate and other tis­sue in the mouth, nose and throat that be­come par­tially blocked at night.

De­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion of the block­age, you might be a nose snorer, a mouth snorer, a throat snorer, or even a tongue-base snorer where your tongue drops to the back of your throat at night, caus­ing an ob­struc­tion. But fortunately there’s an appliance available to prevent snoring in all its forms. As well as all the different types of oral appliances, the Chin support strap is popular and there are even small Nasal dilators – venting appliances that fit inside the nostrils to keep them clear and open at night when asleep.

Starting with the UK, a new survey revealed that most people wake up three times a night, and a worrying 11% wake-up between seven and 10 times.

Discomfort and back pains wake19% of us, whilst bad dreams or nightmares affect 11% of us and another 6% say they have experienced anxiety about bills and work which has kept them from a good night’s sleep. Seventeen per cent of us are disturbed by our partners and most complaints from this latter group are related to noisy snoring by their bedmate.

Snoring is dangerous if it’s obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which is one of a number of disorders that rob sufferers of recuperative sleep. If left untreated, it increases risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

In the Republic of Ireland another survey found that one-third of people ‘get less than six hours sleep a night’, and the IKEA-commissioned survey also reveals that almost half of couples sleep back-to-back. I wonder why?

The survey was carried out among 1,000 Irish adults, selected to represent a wide range of areas and social classes.  A partner’s snoring is very likely to impact on someone’s sleep. Almost half of all of those who regularly share a bed claimed a partner’s snoring impacts negatively on their sleep.

Australia has the same problem and the Herald Sun reported that the nation is in the grip of a sleep deprivation “epidemic” with experts calling for quality shut-eye to be prioritised as a health issue with obesity and smoking.

This new research by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation has revealed a third of people are making mistakes at work because they’re fatigued while 20 per cent have fallen asleep at the wheel. The research, published in Sleep Health Journal, shows that 33 to 45 per cent of Australian adults sleep poorly or not long enough most nights leaving them fatigued and irritable.

More than 10 per cent of Australians were found to be sleeping less than five-and-a-half hours a night.

The research showed 21 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women had fallen asleep at work. Worryingly it found that sleeping issues and daytime symptoms of fatigue had increased by up to 10 per cent since similar research was conducted in 2010. Nearly a third of adults drive while drowsy at least once a month and 20 per cent have nodded off at the wheel.

Lead researcher Professor Robert Adams said: “The important of sleep is underestimated. We’ve known for 20 or 30 years that sleep problems are as important to health as things like diet, exercise, avoiding smoking and avoiding drinking but as a society we haven’t really acted on that fact”.

In North America, the problem is king size like much of the available fast food, and weight problems are regarded as a major cause of snoring. It is estimated that almost 80 million people snore in the USA alone, and a further 30 million are kept from restful sleep by obstructive sleep apnoea.

Untreated, severe obstructive sleep apnoea more than doubles the risk of dying from heart disease, the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project warns in conjunction with American Heart Month in February.

According to the Project, there are five key warning signs and risk factors for sleep apnoea: snoring, choking or gasping during sleep, fatigue or daytime sleepiness, obesity (BMI of 30 or higher) and high blood pressure. Millions of people still ignore the facts and as a result remain untreated.

Wherever we are – we need to wake up to the problem – but do so in a different way to the way we are doing it now.

John Redfern


Do you ever wake up with sore teeth and a headache?

If so you could be grinding your teeth. Clenching and grinding, also know as bruxism, is often caused by stress and in many cases, although not all, it happens during the night while a person is asleep. It can cause severe damage to your teeth, jaw pain, earache and headaches.

SleepPro Nightguard

The problem is controlled by the muscles in your cheek that also happen to be incredibly powerful and can exert up to a massive 600 pounds of force per square inch in the back of your mouth, near the molars. So as you can imagine, this strong muscle can have a serious impact on your teeth.

As many as one in 10 people experience teeth grinding on a daily basis, with the condition being most at its peak between the ages of 25 and 44, and on top of this, many others do it periodically. Because it often occurs during sleep, most people are totally unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or a tender painful jaw is a definite symptom of bruxism.

Just like snoring or sleep apnoea, people often first learn that they grind their teeth from their partner who hears the grinding at night, although the most reliable way to diagnose bruxism is during a sleep study. It is often also associated with other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea and you may suffer from both.

In addition to being detrimental to oral and dental health, the noise from bruxism is often disturbing for others. It can lead to headaches, jaw pain and daytime tiredness caused by the disruption to normal sleep brain-rhythms.

If left undetected, dental damage will usually occur, leading to tooth loss and gum disease. In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening or even loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures and even complete dentures may be needed as a result.

Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaw and jaw joints, result in earache, cause or worsen jaw joint disease (TMJ), and even change the appearance of your face.

Bruxism frequently occurs due to psychological factors including anxiety, stress and emotional problems. However it can be caused by a variety of other medical disorders (neurological and psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and as a side-effect of medications). Bruxism can occur at any age, is often noted in children and adults, and there are no significant differences in bruxism rates between males and females.

Patients with bruxism usually experience cycles of improvement and worsening in their symptoms over time and although complex sleep testing in a clinic is not essential to diagnose sleep bruxism, a simpler form of sleep study is often very helpful to assess whether the bruxism is associated with another sleep or movement disorder such as sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder.

In many cases, your oral healthcare provider can provide you with an occlusal appliance, like a sports mouth guard, to be worn at night in order to protect your teeth from damage, and these occur in several forms.

One of the most common ways to protect your teeth from wearing down and even fracturing due to constant grinding and clenching, and reduce the subsequent pain, is to wear an ‘occlusal appliance’ which is simply a name for a protective night guard.

These are normally custom-made so that they fit perfectly over either your top or your bottom teeth. Simpler versions also occur that are suitable for milder, infrequent episodes of bruxism. Both are quite inexpensive and the custom-made version comes in several helpful options to suit you.

Other more advanced mouthpieces, called mandibular advancement devices, or MAD’s, are also regularly used to stop teeth grinding.

However, these are most commonly used when a sleep disorder like sleep apnoea is the most likely cause. They’re also bespoke made specifically to fit your jaw and are usually worn over both the top and the bottom teeth. The purpose of this is to bring your bottom jaw forward and this keeps the airway open, preventing snoring and episodes of sleep apnoea, as well as stopping you grinding your teeth.

John Redfern

 


Obstructive Sleep Apnoea WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Ill man sitting on his bed

What is OSA?

Obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA, is a dangerous sleep disorder that makes patients stop breathing repeatedly. So if you snore heavily, or have severely disturbed sleep where you gasp for air, then don’t ignore it because it will get worse and not go away. Lots of cases go undiagnosed because many people simply aren’t aware they have OSA, although their partners will be.

 Anyone with OSA has repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the throat when sleeping. This blockage of the pharynx or upper airway often causes heavy snoring as well. These airway obstructions will cause you to stop breathing for a period of 10 seconds up to a minute or more, and blood oxygen levels fall as a result.

Sleep will then be briefly interrupted for as little as 3 seconds and this allows breathing to start again, but with a disruption to your sleep. This can happen hundreds of times a night in the worst cases but you may not know. Most cases of OSA go untreated and it may be your partner who is more aware of your problem than yourself.

What are the key symptoms of OSA?

You will probably toss and turn a great deal as you have these episodes where your breathing stops. In addition, you may find yourself waking up often during the night, sometimes gasping or choking, although this does not always happen. However, even if there are few awakenings overnight, your sleep is disturbed and will not be refreshing because of this. As the day goes on, you may struggle to stay awake, especially in the afternoon. Grumpiness and other mood changes are common in untreated OSA.

Your OSA affects other people too

Snoring can keep a bed partner awake and sometimes people in other parts of the house. Some partners even try to stay awake to make sure that the person with OSA starts breathing again after a breathing pause. It worries them greatly when breathing stops. Lack of sleep may also make people who are living with a person with OSA more grumpy and irritable as well as the individual themselves. OSA is a problem for the whole family.

Should you worry if you have symptoms of OSA

There is strong evidence that people with untreated moderate to severe OSA have other health problems. If you have OSA, you are more likely to have high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease than someone without it. Each time you stop breathing, your blood pressure may go up and over time, this may also contribute to high blood pressure during the day (hypertension). There is also real evidence that having OSA, particularly if it is severe it may increase the risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke or depression. Treating sleep apnoea may reduce these risks considerably.

How is obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed?

Signs and symptoms such as snoring, obesity, observed breathing pauses and sleepiness during the day might suggest that a person has OSA. The best way to be really sure is by having a simple sleep study and this can easily be done at home. This measures sleep, breathing and oxygen levels.

How is obstructive sleep apnea treated?

For people with a very mild level of OSA, and few symptoms, losing weight, decreasing the amount of alcohol consumed in the evening or adjusting the sleeping position may be all that is needed. Most people have more OSA episodes sleeping on their backs. Using a simple oral appliance to stop snoring and keep the airway open will help.

However, for those with moderate or severe OSA, much more active treatment is often required. This is particularly so if daytime tiredness is present or there is a background of heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure that has been difficult to control. The two most commonly used treatments for moderate to severe OSA are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) where a mask attached to an oxygen supply is worn all night, or using a medically approved bespoke oral appliance.

Many people find CPAP difficult and uncomfortable to use, and in those cases the medical advice is to use a mouthpiece instead rather than not have preventative treatment of any form at all. The mouthpiece is designed to move the lower jaw forward which helps to keep the airway open. This mandibular advancement device fits over both the upper and lower teeth and these devices are being used more and more for the treatment of snoring and mild to moderate forms of sleep apnea.

The important thing, having identified the problem, is treating it without delay.

John Redfern