In order to find out whether you are only suffering from habitual snoring or also from obstructive sleep apnoea, there are different diagnostic measures.
The first step is an anamnesis by your doctor (e.g. ENT specialist). Based on a detailed interview and examination, conspicuities in the nose and throat area can be identified. In addition, sleeping habits and other influencing factors, like overweight or consumption of alcohol and cigarettes can be obtained. For this purpose, it can also be helpful to consult your partner. Furthermore, standardised questionnaires enable an initial assessment.
In the second step an ambulatory sleep recording (also called polygraphy) is recommended, if required. Patients receive a mobile device that they have to put on before going to bed. This device records the sleeping behaviour and important physical activities at night. Thus, breathing stops can be diagnosed.
Depending on frequency and duration of the breathing stops, a polysomnography in a sleep laboratory is required. This is a detailed examination of the sleep. Persons concerned spend one to two nights in a sleep laboratory where they are permanently guarded by professionals. Any conspicuity, e.g. in the field of brain activity or heart rate, is recorded and afterwards analysed.
An untreated obstructive sleep apnoea can have serious consequences restricting the quality of life and shortening the lifespan. Below we collected possible consequences.
1. Effects on cardiovascular system: The effects on the heart, the blood circulation and the brain are particularly serious since nocturnal breathing stops can lead to a shortage of oxygen in the brain. As a result, the heart rate increases in order to balance the lack of oxygen. The risk of disruptions of the blood circulation increases since the heart muscle is in constant effort. That is why sleep apnoea often leads to high blood pressure, arrhythmia as well as an increased risk of a heart attack. Moreover, the probability of a stroke and suffering from a sudden cardiac death at night rises with increasing age.
2. Increased diabetes risk: The exact link between an obstructive sleep apnoea and diabetes mellitus type 2 is currently being researched. However, it is known that the breathing stop and thus the triggered wake-up call can cause immense stress reactions in the body. As a result, the body releases an increased number of stress hormones. Those hormones can lead to a rise of the blood pressure. At the same time, the endogenous insulin production is blocked. This permanent strain of the body can lead to a permanent increase of the blood sugar level.
3. Heartburn: Snorer and especially people with sleep apnoea often suffer from heartburn at night. A negative pressure results when inhaling caused by the narrowed airways. Thus, gastric acid can rise through the gullet and comes into contact with the mucous membranes. Since those don’t have a protective function – in contrast to the gastric mucous membrane – the typical unpleasant, burning pain in the chest results.
4. Reduced potency and sexual desire: Persons concerned often complain about loss of libido. An impaired sexual desire occurs both with men and women. With men, the insufficient oxygen supply can result in increased potency problems.
5. Increased danger of accident: People with sleep apnoea syndrome are exposed to an increased danger of accident since they do not get enough sleep and are overtired during the day due to a fitful sleep. The tiredness during the day can result in concentration difficulties and increases the risk of microsleep which can have serious consequences especially in road traffic.
Since snoring can be caused by multiple factors, there is not the universal panacea. It is necessary to check where your snoring is originating from. However, there are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of snoring.
1. Reduce overweight: Being overweight enables fat to deposit in the throat area which can narrow the airways. Exercise and healthy eating can help to counteract the symptoms.
2. Abstaining from alcohol and tobacco: Alcohol and sleeping pills slacken the musculature. Moreover, cigarettes can irritate the mucous membranes which, as a result, swell and narrow the airway. That’s why you should refrain from smoking especially before going to bed.
3. Have a quiet and restful sleep: Sufficient sleep is very important. Extensively air your bedroom before going to bed and make sure it’s sufficiently cool. Ensure that your biological sleeping rhythm is balanced and don’t rack your brain over everyday stress at night. A full stomach can also cause a fitful sleep.
4. Make sure your nasal breathing is free: Those who can’t breathe freely through their nose at night, often automatically shift to mouth breathing. Is a nasal congestion caused by a cold or an allergy, nasal sprays can help. An alternative are nasal dilators. They soflty spread the nasal wings and allow for an improved nasal breathing.
5. Prevent supine position: Sleeping in supine position encourages the lower jaw and tongue to fall back in the throat narrowing the upper airways. That’s why you should try to sleep on the side or the stomach. So-called supine position preventers are supportive and induce you to sleep in lateral position. With many users, they achieve a training effect so that it’s no longer necessary to use them regularly after a few weeks.
6. Oral Appliances: Mandibular advancement devices cause the desired advancement of the lower jaw and tongue and thereby an opening of the upper airways. It can be distinguished between two types. Custom-made appliances are fabricated in a dental laboratory, whereas prefabricated oral appliances are made of thermoplastic material that softens when heated in a hot water bath and can be formed according to the teeth during the fitting.
7. CPAP-Therapy: CPAP-masks are especially suitable when suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnoea. The abbreviation stands for „Continuous Positive Airway Pressure“. The patient is exposed to a positive airway pressure preventing the upper airways from collapsing.