“Snoring is a problem is many households, and many wives and husbands complain about the noisy problem,” says Dr. Cheung, an Otolaryngologist who is based in British Columbia. “I know of one lady who complains that her husband snores so much that she would rather sleep with her crying infant, so it goes to show you that snoring can be troublesome for a marriage.”
According to the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology, 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age.
Dr. Cheung says, “Snoring is a problem much more complicated than it seems. It is often secondary to multiple factors: mainly excessive weight, excessive soft tissue in the throat, and loss of muscle tone due to aging. The inability to breathe through the nose can also lead to snoring.”
Snoring can be detrimental to your health. In the most severe form of sleep disorder it is called obstructive sleep apnea. In this case, the individual is awoken repeatedly throughout their night. This leads to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime fatigue. In the long run, this can lead to heart disease such as heart failure.
Untreated sleep apnea can contribute to many problems, including difficulty with learning and memory, poor job performance, and depression.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people with sleep apnea are two to seven times more likely than healthy persons to have a traffic accident.
What is Snoring?
It occurs when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these strike each other and vibrate during breathing.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of completely obstructed breathing, it is known as obstructive sleep apnea. Serious episodes last more than ten seconds and occur more than seven times per hour. Patients who have apnea problems may even experience 300 events per night. This can lead the individual’s heart to pump even harder because blood oxygen levels are reduced.
The immediate effect of sleep apnea is that the snorer must sleep lightly and keep his muscles tense in order to keep airflow to the lungs. Because the snorer does not get a good rest, he may be sleepy during the day, which impairs job performance. After many years with sleep apnea, elevated blood pressure and heart enlargement can occur.
How can you stop snoring?
Heavy snorers should seek medical advice to ensure that sleep apnea is not a problem. IF indicated, an ear, nose, throat surgeon will provide a thorough examination. The patient’s sleeping may be studied at home or in a laboratory to determine how serious the snoring is and what effects it has on the health of the individual.
Treatment depends on the diagnosis. An examination will reveal if the snoring is caused by nasal allergy, infection, deformity, or tonsils and adenoids.
Self-Help for the Light Snorer
Dr.Cheung recommends that adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should become active to develop good muscle tone and lose weight, and avoid alcohol and consuming food for three hours before going to sleep.
He says, “Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns, and try sleeping on your side rather than your back. You can even tilt the head of your bed upwards four inches.”
Talk to your doctor
The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which is a mask that delivers air pressure into the throat. For those cases where CPAP is ineffective or not tolerated, a dental appliance may be beneficial.
Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea may also respond to various treatments now offered by many otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons, including Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty which tightens flabby tissues in the throat and palate, and expands air passages.
Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty refers to procedures and techniques that treat snoring and some of them also are used to treat various severities of obstructive sleep apnea. Different types include bipolar cautery, laser, and radiofrequency.
Genioglossus and hyoid advancement is a surgical procedure for the treatment of sleep apnea. It prevents collapse of the lower throat and pulls the tongue muscles forward, thereby opening the obstructed airway.
“People with sleep apnea should seek treatment, as it can cause negative health implications in the long run. Other lifestyle changes can be suggested by your doctor, which can eliminate some of your sleep apnea symptoms as well as risk for other diseases,” says Dr. Cheung.