Snoring and Sleep Apnea
"Laugh and the World Laughs With You, Snore and You Sleep Alone..."
How Common Is Snoring?
One out of every four people is an habitual snorer. The problem is more frequent in males and the overweight, and worsens with age.
What Causes Snoring?
Modern medical science has discovered that snoring is often related to physically obstructed breathing during sleep. This physical obstruction occurs when the muscles of the palate, the uvula, and sometimes the tonsils relax during deep sleep, and act as vibrating noise-makers when the air of breathing moves across them. Excessive bulkiness of tissue in the back of the throat as it narrows into the airway can also contribute to snoring, as can a long palate and/or uvula.
What Are the Common Remedies for Snoring?
Snoring 'cures' vary widely, ranging from sewing a tennis ball into a snorer's pajama back, to electric shock mechanisms that give the snorer an unpleasant jolt. Most of these remedies and devices are based upon some sort of sleep behavior modification, with the presumption that a person can be trained or conditioned not to snore. Unfortunately, the snorer has no control over snoring whatsoever, and if these devices do work, it is probably because they keep the snorer awake.
For adults who are mild or occasional snorers, the following self-help remedies are recommended.
Adopt an athletic lifestyle and exercise daily to develop good muscle tone and lose weight.
Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime.
Avoid alcoholic beverages within 4 hours of retiring.
Avoid heavy meals within 3 hours of retiring.
Avoid getting overtired by establishing regular sleeping patterns.
Sleep on your side rather than on your back. consider sewing a pocket on your pajama back to hold a tennis ball. This reminds you to avoid sleeping on your back.
Tilt the entire bed with the head upwards 4" (Place a brick or two under the bedposts at the head of the bed).
Allow the non-snorer to get to sleep first.
Should I Worry If I Snore?
Socially, snoring is disruptive to family life, causing other family members sleepless nights and often resentfulness. Snorers become unwelcome roommates on vacations or business trips. Also, snoring actually disturbs the sleeping patterns of the snorer, making restful sleep difficult. Finally, snoring can be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea --a serious medical problem.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed when loud snoring is interrupted by episodes of completely obstructed breathing. This condition can be serious and sometimes fatal if these episodes last over ten seconds and occur more than seven times an hour. The cumulative effect of these obstructed breathing episodes is reduced blood oxygen levels to the brain, forcing the snorer to stay in a lighter sleep stage so that the breathing passage muscles are kept tighter. This prevents the snorer from obtaining the rest benefit achieved only during deep sleep, and can lead to a tendency to fall asleep during daytime hours - on the job, or worse, at the wheel of a car.
The heavy snorer should have a thorough examination of his nose, mouth, palate, throat, and neck. Studies in a sleep laboratory are valuable to determine how serious the snoring is and what effect it has on the snorer's health.
Treatment will depend, of course, on the diagnosis. Treatment may include the following:
- Managing a nasal allergy or infection.
- Surgically correcting a nasal deformity.
- Removing tonsils and adenoids.
Snoring may respond to surgery. An operation called Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) tightens flabby tissues and expands the air passages. Your surgeon may choose to use standard surgical instruments, electrocautery, or a laser for this procedure.
If surgery is too risky, unwanted, or unsuccessful, the patient may sleep every night wearing a nasal mask that delivers air pressure to the throat. Oral appliances which stabilize the tongue and jaw may also be worn.
What Is the Laser Treatment of Snoring?
Laser treatment is much like a visit to the dentist. The patient is treated right the doctor's office - sitting upright and fully awake in a comfortable chair. After local anesthesia (Lidocaine) is applied, the laser is used to trim and reshape the uvula, which has no real function. Each session takes about fifteen minutes, and the full treatment is spread over a few sessions spaced about four weeks apart.
What Are the Advantages of Laser Treatment?
The multiple sessions minimize the risk of removing more tissue than necessary to quiet the snorer; there is no bleeding with laser treatment. Eating and speaking are not affected. Patients go right back to their normal activity after each session. The biggest advantage to treatment with the laser, however, is that it works. An immediate reduction in snoring is common, with significant improvement usually occurring after the second session. In 85% of patients, the snoring is cured, while an additional 12% report reduced level of snoring.
How Do I Know if I'm a Candidate for the Laser Treatment?
The initial consultation with one of our doctors will include an examination to determine whether the laser treatment for snoring is appropriate. The procedure is only performed on adults over the age of sixteen. If you and the doctor decide to go ahead with the laser surgery, a series of appointments will be scheduled.
Why Does My Child Snore?
As with adults, children snore when their breathing passages are obstructed. Chronic obstruction can lead to orthodontic and dental abnormalities. Children who snore chronically should be thoroughly examined. Medical evidence suggests that a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy will probably make an important difference in the health and well-being of the child.