Sleep Apnoea

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a serious condition that can affect your quality of sleep and your overall health.

If you have sleep apnoea, your airway temporarily closes as you sleep. This causes you to stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time, before your brain wakes you to breathe again. This can happen hundreds of times a night in severe cases.  In some cases the airway may not fully close but can be severely restricted. If this occurs frequently you may still experience limited airflow and reduced oxygen entering your blood stream.

Sleep apnoea is a medical condition. So, strictly speaking you do not ‘have’ sleep apnoea until you get a medical diagnosis. You may experience the symptoms of sleep apnoea without them being sufficient to support a medical diagnosis. However, you may still benefit from using an oral appliance like the Snoreeze Oral Device or other treatment. In all cases, if you are concerned that you may have sleep apnoea it is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.


What causes sleep apnoea?

During sleep, your body relaxes. But if you have sleep apnoea, your airway becomes TOO relaxed, leading to a loss of muscle tone in your upper airway. This causes the airway to collapse, stopping breathing and disrupting your sleep.

What causes sleep apnoea?

Am I at risk of sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea can affect people of any age or gender. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, being overweight, and a lack of exercise can all increase your sleep apnoea risk. Women are also at higher risk of sleep apnoea after the menopause.

Here are a few factors that can trigger sleep apnoea.

  • Being overweight – excessive body fat can stain the throat muscels. It can lead to breathing difficulties.
  • Being male – It’s unknown why, but sleep apnoea is more common in men than in women.
  • Being 40 years of age or over – Although sleep apnoea can occur at any age, it’s more common in people over the age of 40.
  • Alcohol – Drinking excessively can lead to weight gain, which significantly increases the risk of sleep apnoea.
  • Having a large neck – Having a collar size of 17 inches (43cm) increases the risk of developing sleep apnoea.
  • Smoking – Increases the inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway which causes breathing difficulties.
  • Menopause – The changes in hormone levels during the menopause can tauise your throat muscels to relax more than usual.
  • Family history – If sleep apnoea runs i the family, there may be genes inherited from your patents that can make you more susceptible to sleep apnoea.
  • Nasal congestion – Sleep apnoea occurs more often in people with nasal congestion.

Have I got sleep apnoea?

It is possible to suffer from sleep apnoea and never even suspect you have the condition. The symptoms are often spotted by a partner, friend or family member who notices problems while you sleep. Sleep apnoea can be complicated to diagnose.  One of the main signs of the condition is loud snoring, but not every snorer has sleep apnoea.

You may have the condition if you snore and stop breathing in your sleep or wake up tired (even after 8 hours sleep). When you experience an episode of apnoea during sleep, you will usually snore continuously followed by a period of silence and then a loud snore or snort. If you experience significant narrowing of the airway (but not full airway closure) the symptoms may by snoring with very laboured noisy breathing.

You may experience heavy snoring, or a number of sleep apnoea ‘events’ (airway closures) without necessarily falling within the medical profession’s definition of sleep apnoea.  However if you experience daytime sleepiness or headaches on waking you could still benefit from using the Snoreeze Oral Device or other treatment.

Signs of sleep apnoea when asleep include:

  • Excessive or loud snoring
  • Periods of laboured breathing
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Frequent toilet trips during the night

Signs of sleep apnoea when awake include:

  • Frequently waking up with a headache
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (still feeling tired after 8 hours sleep)
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Depression

How could sleep apnoea affect me?

Sleep apnoea is a very serious condition. Some severe forms of sleep apnoea can cause you to wake up hundreds of times a night, without you even realising it is happening.  All forms of sleep apnoea mean that you are getting less oxygen circulating in your blood than your body needs.

There are also several serious medical conditions related to sleep apnoea. Evidence suggests that sleep apnoea can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of serious medical conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. You can prevent high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. You can also prevent high blood pressure by using the appropriate treatment for your sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea has also been linked to increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. Sleep apnoea can cause your body to become less able to break down glucose properly, making it really important to find the right treatment for your sleep apnoea.

Can I still drive if I have sleep apnoea?

You must tell the DVLA if you have:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea which affects your ability to drive safely
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea syndrome

If you want to find out more detailed information about how sleep apnoea could affect your ability to drive, please see our Sleep Apnoea and Driving page.


How is sleep apnoea treated?

Lifestyle changes

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea, it’s likely that your Doctor will advise you to make some healthy lifestyle changes. These may include:

  • Losing weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Getting more exercise
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Avoiding certain medications (such as sedatives)

Even though these lifestyle changes can be difficult to make, in many cases they can make a really positive impact on your condition.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea in the UK, the NICE approved treatment through the NHS is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). You will be issued with a CPAP machine and mask like the one pictured below.

CPAP machine to treat sleep apnoea

CPAP works by increasing the air pressure in your upper airway and throat.  This helps to make sure your airway does not collapse so that you can breathe normally.

Many people find CPAP uncomfortable, inconvenient to use, and hard to get along with. Studies show that up to 60% of patients abandon CPAP, and many stop treatment.  If you’re currently using a CPAP machine, but find it difficult to tolerate, it can be dangerous to stop your treatment.  You should speak to your doctor to see what options are available for you to treat your sleep apnoea without CPAP.

Oral Devices / Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

In the USA, the most common treatment for sleep apnoea is an Oral Device.  They are sometimes called mandibular advancement devices, snoring mouthpieces, or snoring mouth guards. These devices are a bit like gum shields that work by holding your jaw forwards (or simply stopping it from falling backwards) during sleep. This helps to keep your airway open, stopping it from narrowing or collapsing during the night and helping you to breathe easily and quietly.

Clinical studies show that Oral Devices are as effective as CPAP in treating mild to moderate sleep apnoea.

Which treatment is best for me?

Mild / Moderate Sleep Apnoea

If you have mild sleep apnoea, you can treat it by making lifestyle changes and using a mouthpiece like the Snoreeze Oral Device.  These mouthpieces work by holding your jaw forward or stopping it from falling back during sleep. This helps to prevent your airway from narrowing and collapsing, so you don’t stop breathing in your sleep. You can find out more about how mouthpieces like the Snoreeze Oral Device work to treat mild to moderate sleep apnoea here.

Severe Sleep Apnoea

If you have a severe case of sleep apnoea then the best treatment for you will probably be a CPAP machine, although some people can still find that an Oral Device works for them.  Your Doctor will be able to advise you on the best way to manage your sleep apnoea.

How well do Oral Devices work?

There is now lots of clinical evidence proving Oral Devices like the Snoreeze Oral Device can treat mild to moderate sleep apnoea as effectively as CPAP machines. Many people prefer using Oral Devices as they are easy to use, discreet and don’t have many side effects.



Would you like to take a brief questionnaire to see your sleep aponea risk levels?

Question One of Eight

Complete the following clinically approved screening questionnaire to find out if you are at risk of suffering from sleep apnoea.

Do you snore loudly? (Louder than talking, or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)

Question Two of Eight

Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during daytime?

Question Three of Eight

Gender - Are you male?

Question Four of Eight

Has anyone observed you stop breathing during your sleep?

Question Five of Eight

Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?

Question Six of Eight

Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 35?

Question Seven of Eight

Are you over the age of 50?

Question Eight of Eight

Is your neck circumference greater than: Male - 17" or 43cm? Female - 15" or 41cm?

Question Eight of Eight

You are at
risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

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