When Daniel Craig Hetrelezis was studying to become a dentist, he noticed people falling asleep in lecture theatres. He would hear them snore at times and spot bags under people’s eyes. Even he himself was guilty of this, nodding off during lectures or while reading a book.
Now, many may point this to students not getting enough sleep due pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, and while this may be a contributing factor, Hetrelezis was suffering from sleep apnea.
The condition is a serious disorder where one’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts, and for this Greek Australian, he wakes up throughout the night after not breathing for short periods.
So serious is the problem that the now dentist and doctor, even fell asleep behind the wheel and flipped his car on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway.
Ever since graduating eight years ago, Dr Hetrelezis has had a passion for good sleep and helping those with snoring problems and sleep apnea.
Throughout his career, the Tasmania dentist has witnessed the effects of CPAP machines and over-the-counter snoring guards.
“I was originally offered surgery by my sleep physician – tongue surgery – but I wanted a non-invasive option and I didn’t want a CPAP machine. I’ve always used an oral appliance,” he told Neos Kosmos.
New research from the University of Adelaide is now suggesting that oral appliances should be the first line of treatment for these sleeping conditions, something Hetrelezis has long believed.
“One thing that have really itched me over the last eight years, I’ve always screened my patients for snoring and sleep apnea and I’d send them off to see their GP.”
“Sometimes the GP will refer them to the sleep physician and they’d never send them back to me to have a snoring appliance made and I could never figure out why.
“Then I realised that some of them were never offered the option of a snoring appliance or they were offered a CPAP machine.”
Now he and his team across three Tasmania sites and one recently launched location in Campsie at Sydney Snoring and Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance Centre are “pioneering” an innovative oral appliance.
“We’re changing an unbelievable number of lives and we’re getting tremendous results and words just spreading,” the published author said.
He describes their work as “revolutionising snoring and sleep apnea treatment.”
“I know how much snoring and sleep apnea can affect your life, and with the research showing 50 per cent of patients that are given a CPAP machine can’t tolerate them, it’s like a life sentence.”
“You don’t know how debilitating it is until you’ve lived with it, or even just loud snoring and the impact that can have on your partner for example”
Another example was a study that saw two groups of people, one hadn’t had a full night sleep and the other had. They put them in front of smorgasbord of food and the people that hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, picked the worst food.
Furthermore, poor sleep has negative health effects on your blood pressure and can lead to higher risks of diseases related to your immune system like cancer and diabetes.
As mentioned, the recent research saw that almost half of people couldn’t tolerate a CPAP machine, but a non-invasive device is being suggested as the first line of treatment.
20 people with sleep apnea were tested, half saw their problems fully solved with an oral device while the other half only needed some minor extras. Hetrelezis says the good news is that these non-invasive options are out there.
“I think it can never hurt to always start with a non-invasive option first and then if you want to consider surgery or something later, you can.”
“I’m not trying to talk patients out of surgery, major treatment or a CPAP as sometimes people have no choice, but I just think every patient at the very least, is entitled to an alternative.”