Snoring and sleep apnoea

What is snoring?   What is sleep apnoea (apnea)?  Can you cure snoring and sleep apnoea?

Snoring and sleep apnoea – it’s not just your weight, face and airway structure playing a part!

Surgery, medications, splints, and CPAP are not the complete or only solutions.

Both awake and asleep, people who snore and have apnoea breathe differently to how healthy people do.

Through breathing retraining you can change the way you breathe – to silent, light, nasal breathing and experience restful sleep again.

Treatment is vitally important

We all know snoring as that irritating noise that disturbs the sleep of the bed partner, family members and other hotel guests. But snoring is far more than just a bad noise. It can have many health complications including the much more serious condition sleep apnoea, where you stop breathing temporarily during sleep for periods that can be as long as a minute – even more. (‘Apnoea’ or ‘apnea’ means ‘without breath’.)  ‘Sleep disordered breathing’ is associated with greater risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and of having a car accident. In children, snoring and sleep apnoea are associated with learning and behavioural disorders including ADHD.

Options include nose and throat surgery, nasal medications, sleeping with a CPAP appliance and mask,  using a dental appliance, and addressing the dysfunctional breathing habits. This last option is fundamental but rarely considered from a ‘conventional’ point of view.

The link with your breathing pattern

The first thing you need to know is that snoring and sleep apnoea do not occur in people with a normal breathing pattern. People who snore and have sleep apnoea do not breathe correctly. No exceptions. Research shows that they characteristically overbreathe and this can cause or influence common signs and symptoms.

In a study by Radwan1, (1995) the average awake minute volume for OSA sufferers was 15 L per minute (normal is 4-6 L per minute) and the average inspiratory airflow rate was 620 mls/sec (normal is 280mls/sec).

The high inspiratory airflow rate (sucking big gasps of air in fast) characteristic in people with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) may cause or influence:

  • dehydration, swelling and congestion in the airway
  • vibration of the tissues in the throat (the snoring noise)
  • creating a negative pressure suction force on the airways sufficient to reduce or obstruct breathing (OSA)-like sucking too hard on a straw
  • with high volume exhalation, dropping carbon dioxide levels sufficient for the brain to temporarily stop sending the signal to breathe (central sleep apnoea-CSA).

Knowing the effects of high-volume high-speed breathing, explains why sleep apnoea can also be found in slim men and women, and in children, even though the risk factors of excess fat around the neck or abdomen are not present.

You can change the way you breathe

That is what breathing retraining does – gets you back to slow, smooth, silent, gentle nose breathing day and night, that protects your lungs, balances your blood gases and enhances oxygen uptake to every cell in your body.

Our experience with working with thousands of people is that improvements in sleep usually happen within days and consolidate within weeks. When snoring and apnoea no longer occur (confirmed by repeat sleep study) CPAP machines are no longer required, and surgery can be avoided. Many of the people we work with did not find CPAP or a dental appliance tolerable or successful or did not want to use them for life.

A common comment several days into breathing retraining is: “I was breathing so quietly last night that my husband/wife had to prod me to see if I was still alive.”

Case Study: Gregory had been snoring for as long as he (and his family) could remember. His wife rated his snoring as being at least 8 out of 10. He had recently been diagnosed with sleep apnoea. Gregory had a lot of congestion and more often than not his nose was blocked. After his first consultation he noticed that his mucus decreased. On the third night of his course he found that he slept 8 hours straight without needing the usual overnight toilet visit. He felt totally refreshed and clearheaded in the morning. His wife came home after being away for three weeks and she thought he had died in his sleep! He was the quietest he had been in 40 years.

Getting help for your breathing

First, try to breathe just a little more gently when you think of it, say a 1% smaller breath size than your usual, whether its mouth or nose breathing you are doing. Stay comfortable – even a small change should show you a benefit. 

To go further you need to assess your breathing pattern, determine where (rate, rhythm, volume, use of breathing muscles, O2 / CO2 balance….) it differs from normal, and change it step by step. Below are some options to help you.

The Breathe Away online course in Breathing Retraining. Instructor – Tess Graham. Facilitator – Tracey Anderson Askew.

The book, Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea  has a simple, easy to follow explanation and program, and a companion product- Breathing Exercise Instruction Audio (CD and MP3 formats) makes learning even easier.

Learn more about breathing retraining

* If you have not already been medically diagnosed with sleep apnoea and suspect after reading this that you do have it, go and see your doctor. Significant sleep apnoea is a very serious condition and needs to be addressed in one way or another without delay.

* Participants in breathing retraining programs are requested not to alter or cease medication usage or CPAP or oral appliance usage without first consulting their doctor.

1. Radwan L et al, “Control of breathing in obstructive sleep apnoea and in patients with the overlap syndrome”, J. Eur Respir J. Vol 8, 1995, 542–545.Further references see Science

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