Pauses or interruptions in breathing, also known as sleep apnoea, is due to the weakening of the throat and upper airway muscles. What happens when the muscles are weakened is that they are not able to stay open, but collapse and block the airway.
Sleep apnoea can lead to several serious illnesses. Research shows a link with elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. There is also a correlation between sleep apnoea and road accidents.
To count as sleep apnoea, the interruption of breathing in adults should last for at least 10 seconds. In a person with severe breathing interruptions, apnoea can occur up to 600 times in one night.
Usually, it is not you who discovers that you have sleep apnoea. It is probably a partner or a loved one who has noticed that you have breathing problems. It may also be that you have sought medical attention due to, for example, a dry mouth, daytime fatigue, headache, restless sleep or mood swings. It is not uncommon that you feel acid reflux, wake up for an unknown reason, get up to urinate during the night or wake up in the morning with a sore throat.
Read more about the symptoms of a hiatus hernia.
Causes of sleep apnoea
The upper airways and throat consist of muscles and cartilage. Sleep apnoea is often caused by a weakened musculature (the ‘constrictors’) in the upper airway, which causes the muscles during sleep to fall in on themselves, ‘collapse’ and block the free airway.
Behind the uvula you have the soft palate. The soft palate is a muscle that seals up against the nose when we swallow so that food or drink goes down the oesophagus instead of up the nose. When we sleep, our muscles relax – and this can sometimes include the soft palate muscle.
Any snoring that is experienced is caused by a weakened soft palate that relaxes too much and vibrates in the flow of air when breathing in. If the tongue’s musculature is also weakened, the tongue falls back and increases the pressure on the upper airway and blocks it, leading to a pause in breathing.
The symptoms can be aggravated, for example, if you have enlarged tonsils, nasal polyps, drink too much alcohol or are overweight. The body reacts in several ways during a pause in breathing.
It produces more adrenaline, your pulse and blood pressure increase, while blood oxygenation becomes lower. The body’s response to this can give you symptoms such as daytime fatigue, headaches and you may feel more easily irritated.
Treatment of sleep apnoea
It is important to check the cause of the interruption in breathing. If you have frequent breathing breaks lasting longer than 10 seconds you should always see a doctor. While waiting for your appointment and possible diagnosis, you can start training with the IQoro.
The IQoro neurosmucular training device strengthens the weakened throat and upper airway muscles, which are a common cause of sleep apnoea. The only thing you need to do is 90 seconds of training per day.
Night time snore guard
In mild to moderate sleep apnoea, a night time snore guard is a common treatment option. It is fitted at a dentist. The purpose of the snore guard is to move the lower jaw and thus create an underbite that pulls out the position of the tongue and makes it not fall back and clog the airways.
Creating an intentional underbite that lasts for several hours at a time can lead to lasting issues with an altered bite profile. The changes occur slowly and should be followed up by your dentist.
A regular night time treatment of medium to severe sleep apnoea is a CPAP machine that helps you keep your airways open. Some find the device and mask unpleasant, plus the loud noise made by the unit can make it difficult to sleep, while other people are very satisfied with the solution.
Even if the treatment method for your sleep apnoea works well, it does not strengthen your musculature, but rather provides passive help while it is being used. We recommend daytime training with IQoro to strengthen the weakened musculature.
In cases where the effect of the IQoro treatment is so good that you wish to discontinue any ongoing treatment with a CPAP machine or a snore guard, this should be done in consultation with your doctor. When you have achieved the desired result, maintenance training with IQoro is required to maintain muscle strength and retain the effect achieved.
Reviewed by Mary Hägg in association with IQoro
Associate Professor of Experimental Research in Ear, Nose and Throat diseases at Uppsala University, and Hospital Dental Surgeon specializing in orofacial medicine.
Mary has worked for 12 years as a hospital dentist and for 31 years as Head of the Speech & Swallowing Centre, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Hudiksvall Hospital, Sweden.
- Kjellén G, Tibbling L. Manometric oesophageal function, acid perfusion test and symptomatology in a 55-year-old general population. Clinical Physiology. 1981; 1:405-15
- Hägg M, Tibbling L, Franzén T. Esophageal dysphagia and reflux symptoms before and after oral IQoro® training. World J Gastroenterol 2015; 21(24): 7558-7562.