Sleep Apnoea – Adults

OK. Scary statistics time. If you have untreated severe sleep apnoea, you are 7.5 times more likely to DIE FROM A HEART ATTACK OR STROKE than someone without sleep apnoea. If you have untreated sleep apnoea you are 5 times more likely to DIE OF CANCER, and if you are a young male, you are 9 times more likely to DIE OF ALL CAUSES if you have sleep apnoea.

They’re Just Statistics. It Won’t Happen to Me.

  • That’s what I thought too, until I left my untreated sleep apnoea too long and got cancer. I’m not dead (obviously) but trust me, it doesn’t happen to you until it happens to you.

If I Had Sleep Apnoea My Doctor Would  Have Mentioned It. Right?

  • Yeah, that would be nice, but it’s not going to happen. Almost everyone sees a doctor, but only 10% of people with sleep apnoea have been diagnosed, and only 10% of them are treated adequately. Unless you complain specifically to your doctor about fatigue, they’re not going to go looking for it. They don’t get a lot of training on sleep apnoea, and it is sadly not on most doctor’s radar.

So What is Sleep Apnoea?

  • It’s a situation where your sleep is disrupted by your airway obstructing. Think of it like partly or completely holding your breath while you sleep. Your body knows that’s not a good thing so it wakes you up to start you breathing again and keep you alive.

Surely I’d Know If I Had It?

  • Do you know if your cholesterol is up a little? Do you know if your blood pressure is up a little? Can you feel every extra 100 grams of weight you put on? No. Things creep up on people, and then you take it for granted. It becomes your new normal. We’ve all had a bad night’s sleep and we all blame it on something. If we have lots of bad nights sleep we blame it on “getting older”, or “being stressed”, or think “I never sleep well anyway”. If you’re not sleeping well there’s generally a reason, and if you don’t want to die before your time, you really should find out if that reason is sleep apnoea.

OK, So What Are The Warning Signs I May Have Sleep Apnoea?

Great question even if I do say so myself. These are the questions I ask patients to decide if someone should get a sleep study done:

  • Do you wake feeling refreshed? If no you may have sleep apnoea.
  • Do you go to the bathroom during the night? If yes you may have sleep apnoea.
  • Do you nod off watching TV? If yes you may have sleep apnoea.
  • Do you snore? If yes you may have sleep apnoea.
  • Do you have high blood pressure or take BP medication? If yes you may have sleep apnoea.
  • Do you have naps during the day? If yes you may have sleep apnoea.

So How Can I Tell If I Have Sleep Apnoea?

  • You can’t know for sure unless you do a sleep study, just like you can’t know for sure if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol without doing a test. We can organise a home sleep test for you in your own bed with your own pillow. Most patients prefer that to doing a full hospital sleep study, which one of my patients referred to as a “lack of sleep study”.

So Why is a Dentist Interested In Sleep Apnoea?

  • Another excellent question. You’re on a roll. Personally, I’m interested in it because I’ve got it, and I know what a horrible thing it is to have, and how much better you can feel when it’s treated. The reason dentists in general are increasingly interested in sleep apnoea is because the principal “medical” treatment for sleep apnoea, CPAP (the mask thing over your face with the air pump attached), is so poorly tolerated. Only 50% of people prescribed CPAP actually use it. In contrast, dentists can make a fancy mouthguard that holds the jaw forward and opens the airway to treat sleep apnoea. 90% of people tolerate these well and wear them nightly, which is why dentists have an important role to play in treating sleep apnoea. They cost about the same as a CPAP machine, but are a lot more portable (if you travel) and a lot more comfortable (if you like being comfortable).

So What Should I do?

  • Come in and talk to us and we’ll determine if you really are at risk, and if a home sleep test is indicated. They only cost $100 and are pretty easy to do. If you have sleep apnoea we will discuss with you what your options are. The life you save will be your own. There’s probably someone who would miss you if you died. Don’t disappoint that person.