man snoring in bed

Can Sleep Apnoea & Snoring Be Fatal?

Hey there Guys. Not sure what your weather has been like but here in Melbourne it’s freaking hot!

Thankfully my work has great airconditioning so I have been hiding at my desk and even seeing a few patients ūüėČ . Ok, ok I know that’s kind of expected in a doctors office but to be honest in heat like this I just want to curl up and have a sleep.

As it so happens so did one of my patients.

Unfortunately for John  it seemed the urge to sleep could take over at any time. On the couch, at the movies, even when he was driving.

Yes, just this Christmas break John was driving to visit his parents when he dropped into sleep, drove off the road and totalled his car.

He’s very fortunate he’s still alive.

Thankfully nobody was injured.

Can Your Snoring Indicate Something Sinister?

Talking with John he shared a story that is fairly typical for sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder where the upper airway frequently blocks off during sleep.

  • John has been told, more often then once, that he was a severe snorer.
  • John’s partner reported that he frequently stop breathing when he slept.
  • John often woke with a dry mouth and headaches.
  • It was a bit of an office joke that John was known to fall asleep, even when sitting up.

Probably the most important indicator of sleep apnoea was John had been witnessed to stop breathing when he sleeps. With sleep constantly¬†interrupted¬†though the night it’s hardly surprising John’s concentration was poor and he had some depression and irritability.

When we moved onto examination John had many of the common traits seen in people with sleep apnoea:

  • His neck was more then 17″ in circumference and he was a little overweight.
  • His blood pressure was elevated
  • His throat was very crowded, with big tonsills and a big tongue.

Good news for John is that we were able to organise a sleep study. Hopefully in a week or so he’ll have his study done which will help diagnose and help guide his treatment.

What happens in a sleep study?

While not all hospitals are a snazzy as the one the video, it does give a good idea of what happens in a sleep study.

Most health insurance companies will cover the cost of a sleep study as it’s considered a “hospital admission” even though you are only in overnight. Of course if you are not sure it’s best to check with your health care provider.

Treatment of sleep apnea can vary from a special machine that guides air into your lungs¬†basically¬†keeping the throat “inflated”, stopping it closing over. Other options include special jaw splints to keep the tongue forward and a new treatment that is small stickers placed on the nose that act as a valve to help keep the airway pressure raised.

You sleep specialist will be able to help recommend the best treatment pathway for you.

So thankfully John’s near fatal car crash has had a good outcome. With proper diagnosis he can be treated. With a decent night sleep he will soon feel a lot more energetic and¬†invigorated.

If you have a partner who may have a similar story to John’s I highly recommend going to see your family doctor. While not every snore is sinister, sleep apnoea is an important disease to be checked for.

Yours in good health, and a great nights sleep.

Dr George

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