FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Dr Levi Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions on Sleep Disorders.
This is an area where Dr Mark Levi is an expert. Dr Levi earned his BDS at Sydney University and has over 30 years’ experience as a dentist, with more than 20 years’ experience in sleep medicine and focusing on sleep disorders.
Beyond his professional expertise, Dr Levi brings a very personal perspective to his work, having himself been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea.
Getting help for a sleep disorder can make a big difference in your life. Below, Dr Levi answers some of the most frequently asked questions about snoring, sleep apnoea and sleep disorders to help you make an informed decision for you and the people around you.
A sleep disorder is any ongoing problem that disrupts and disturbs sleep, and by extension, the overall quality of your life.
- Obstructive Sleep apnoea – in which breathing stops or gets very shallow during sleep, pausing for 10-20 seconds or more, 20 to 30 times an hour.
- Insomnia – an umbrella term that includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early and/or poor quality of sleep.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) – a strong, often uncontrollable urge to move your legs immediately before sleep, or other odd feelings like burning, prickling, itching or tingling.
- Narcolepsy – in which a person falls asleep at unusual times and in awkward places.
When the flow of air slows during sleep (reduced by at least 30%) this is known as a hypopnea. When the flow of air stops completely during sleep (for at least 10 seconds), this is known as apnoea. When these abnormal events (apnoea and hypopnea) are due to obstructive, anatomic causes – often related to the collapse or blockage of the upper airway, a patient is considered to have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, or OSA.
People with sleep apnoea generally have the following symptoms:
- Loud, frequent snoring
- Excessive daytime sleepiness/fatigue
- Unrefreshing sleep and waking with feelings of grogginess, and dullness
- Morning headaches
- Severe dryness of the mouth
- Frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the night
- Cognitive impairment and poor job performance
- Emotional problems including anxiety and depression
- Memory loss and (in extreme cases of sleep loss) dementia
- Medical conditions including hypertension, cardiac disease and stroke
- Impaired motor skills and coordination
- Increased risk of traffic accidents
- Marital stress
Sleep disorders affect people of all ages: children, teens, adults, and seniors. Common risk factors for sleep disorders include:
- Age – more common in middle-aged and older adults.
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop sleep apnoea; women are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
- Weight – the more you weigh, the greater your risk for a sleep disorder.
- Anatomy – structural abnormalities in the sinuses, mouth, throat or elsewhere in the upper airway can contribute to sleep disorders.
- Drug or Alcohol Use – medications, alcohol and illegal drugs can interfere with normal sleep patterns.
- Underlying Medical Problems – People who suffer from high blood pressure or depression are also at higher risk of sleep disorders.
In most people, snoring is caused by multiple factors, each playing some part in the snoring process. They include:
- Narrowing or blockage of the upper airway passages due to anatomy or an injury.
- Factors contributing to congestion of the soft tissues of the airways, such as smoking, alcohol, acid reflux from the stomach affecting the throat tissues, obesity, ageing and hormonal factors.
Snoring can contribute to fatigue and morning tiredness, which increases the risk of accidents on the road, at home, and in the workplace. There also appears to be an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke in snoring patients. When snoring is accompanied by significant sleep apnoea, additional health problems may develop.
Snoring impacts both the person who snores and his/her bed partner. According to a U.S. study of 4900 couples, as many as 80% of snoring couples end up sleeping in separate bedrooms, while a study from the Mayo clinic showed that snoring also seems to be associated with reduced sexual satisfaction in men.
It’s time to see a doctor specially trained in sleep disorders when you’ve had trouble sleeping for more than a month or if you are tired during the day for unknown reasons. Dr Levi can conduct a sleep assessment to evaluate the severity of your condition and determine the best treatment protocol.
A sleep study/assessment is a non-invasive, painless evaluation of your sleep, often conducted in a hospital. At Dr Levi’s Sleep Clinic, patients can conduct their own studies/assessments in the privacy of your own home.
We use the most up-to-date and comprehensive (but easy to use by you) home study equipment to collect nocturnal physiological data in the comfort of your own home. You sleep in your own bed and wear the device on your forehead for one night. It assesses if you are snoring, how loudly, whether you are sleeping on your back or side, how much oxygen you are getting and whether you are experiencing sleep apnoea whilst you sleep.
There are several effective treatments for snoring and sleep disorders. These include dental appliances, laser treatment, breathing assistance devices (CPAP or “sleep” masks), and in the most extreme cases, surgery. After an initial consultation, Dr Levi will assess your suitability for a range of sleep apnoea and snoring treatments and recommend a customised solution which meets your needs. From the initial consultation through to monitoring and re-evaluation of patients, Dr Levi will look after you all the way.
Laser treatment is a safe, gentle, quick and non-invasive treatment direct from Europe with a track record for producing a positive change in sleeping patterns.
Dr Levi offers the revolutionary Nightlase™ laser treatment in Dr Levi’s Sleep Clinic. NightLase™ uses the medical power of Er:YAG laser light to strengthen the soft tissues at the back of the throat that would otherwise relax and obstruct the air passage. Nightlase™ is Dr Levi’s most sought-after snoring and sleep apnoea treatment; Dr Mark Levi and world renowned Dr Harvey Shiffman (Florida, USA) get an average improvement of 75% or greater using the NightLase laser treatment (with the Florida protocols).
An oral appliance is an artificial (often plastic or acrylic) device similar in appearance to a sports mouth guard. It is worn at night during sleep. There are two types of devices:
- Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD) – By moving the lower jaw (mandible) forward, the appliance decreases the likelihood of the oral soft tissues collapsing and obstructing the airway.
- Tongue Retaining Device – applies suction to the tongue at night in order to keep it from falling back in the throat.
Surgical assistance may include nasal, palatal or tongue and neck surgery however surgery for snoring and sleep apnoea is rarely used and only considered in cases of very severe snoring when other treatments have failed.
- Nasal surgery may include improving the nasal airway by straightening the nasal septum and/or shrinking the lining tissue of the nose.
- Palatoplasty addresses the flapping of the soft palate.
- Radiowaves can shrink the back of the tongue.
- Other procedures bring the tongue tissues forward.