The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This is the collapsible part of the airway where the soft palate and uvula (fleshy structure that dangles from the roof of the mouth back into the throat). The vibration of these structures during breathing produces snoring. Problem snoring grows worse with age. 25% of all adults are habitual snorers.
Is Snoring Serious?
Medically – Yes. Heavy snorers tend to develop high blood pressure at a younger age than non-snorers. Obstructive sleep apnea is an exaggerated form of snoring. Loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of totally obstructed breathing. These people may spend up to half their sleep time with blood oxygen levels below normal. During these obstructive episodes, the heart must pump harder. This can cause irregular heartbeats, and eventually high blood pressure. Sleep apnea patients may spend little of their nighttime hours in deep sleep stages. They awaken unrefreshed and are sleepy much of the day. They may fall asleep while driving or while on the job.Socially – yes. It disrupts family life. Spouses often have sleep deprivation, depression, and mood alteration. Marital discord is a common result.
I have a snoring and sleep problem, how can you help me?
Finding the cause is a first step. Snoring is a common problem when people age (the tissues in their throat loses elasticity), experience weight changes or have fat deposits throughout their throat and soft palate. Snoring and sleep apnea can be a mechanical problem even in a child who has large tonsils/adenoids or nasal obstruction from allergies. To evaluate sleep disorders, we include talking to the significant other, when appropriate, to determine if pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) exist. A sleep study is performed to determine if sleep apnea can be documented. If it is exclusively a snoring problem and not sleep apnea, we will discuss options to deal with this as more of a social problem. Should the problem be obstructive sleep apnea, there are several corrective options including the initial use of a non-surgical mechanical CPAP mask which can be tried at the patient’s discretion. There are many surgical procedures that can also be considered, and the success rates have been greatly improved over the years. It is very important to determine if the snoring indeed is sleep apnea, since there is a high correlation between sleep apnea and more serious diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke if left untreated.