If your partner lies awake each night as you slumber loudly, you’re not alone. Occasional snoring affects forty-five percent of adults, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Snoring is the cause of major sleep problems in bedrooms across the country, but many people aren’t aware that it could be a sign of a dangerous condition.
What Causes Snoring and Who Does It?
At the back of the mouth, there’s a collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring happens because when you lay down, these structures come together and vibrate, obstructing the normal flow of air.
You’re more likely to snore if you:
•Are overweight, because excess soft tissue in the neck can cause narrowing of the airway.
•Have large tonsils and adenoids, which can be the culprit of snoring in many children.
•Have blocked nasal passages, since pulling air in through a stuffy nose creates a vacuum in the throat that pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat.
•Have a deformity of the nasal structure such as a deviated septum.
•Have poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, which allows the tongue to fall backwards into the airway.
•Suffer from Sleep Apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea, and What Sleep Problems Does it Cause?
Some people who snore actually stop breathing in their sleep. When the upper airway narrows or collapses for more than 10 seconds at a time, multiple times throughout the night, it’s called Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA. People who suffer from OSA may actually experience from 30 to 300 apnea episodes per night, significantly decreasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. This causes the heart to work tremendously hard and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other medical problems if left untreated.
Aside from danger to the heart, such prolonged periods without breathing can cause major sleep problems. Regular interruptions in the natural sleep cycle lead to sleep deprivation, which can be dangerous when it comes to driving a vehicle and can also ruin the ability to concentrate at work.
What Treatments Are Available for Snoring and Sleep Apnea?
An otolaryngologist is an expert in the study of the head and neck and can examine your nose, mouth, throat, palate, and neck to reveal the cause of your snoring and determine whether you suffer from OSA. He or she may recommend that you participate in a sleep study at home or in a laboratory to find out the severity of your problem and recommend a treatment plan. Some possible solutions include:
•Losing weight, which can often help reduce snoring since excess tissue in the neck is sometimes the culprit.
•Wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance to reposition the lower jaw forward to keep the airway from closing.
•Using a device that opens the airway with a small amount of positive pressure delivered via a nasal mask that you wear while you sleep. This treatment is called CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.
•To increase the stiffness of the soft palate without removing tissue, your doctor may inject a substance that causes stiffness in the injected area near the uvula or insert stiffening rods (Pillar implants) into the soft palate.
•Having excess soft palate tissue removed to open the airway (a procedure called Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP). The remaining tissue stiffens as it heals, minimizing tissue vibration.
•Reducing tissue bulk in the tongue base or soft palate. These procedures, called Thermal Ablation, are used for both snoring and OSA.
•Using genioglossus and hyoid advancement to prevent collapse of the lower throat and to pull the tongue muscles forward, opening the obstructed airway.
Call Sound Health for More Restful Nights
If you snore, your relationship is just one of the risks you should be concerned about. The health of your heart and inability to function in daily life are issues that can’t be ignored.
Call Our Offices to Make an Appointment with a Sound Health Otolaryngologist Today at (314) 332-1377.