Cause Of Snoring And Sleep Apnea

obstructive-sleep-apneaAtleast 45% of normal adults snore occasionally and 25% are snoring habitually. The dreaded problem snoring occurs more often to men and overweight people and can worsen with age. Snoring, though not a problem alone, can be a sign of a much more serious health condition, such as obstructed breathing, which should be taken as a serious matter. A sleep specialist or an otolaryngologist can help you determine what part of your body is responsible for your snoring and can offer possible solutions for your embarrassing behavior.

Causes of snoring

Obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth is the one causing snoring. When these obstructions are present, vibrations occur, thus sound is created. The area they hit is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the uvula and soft palate. Snoring happens when these structures hit each other and vibrate during inhalation.

Among children, the causes of snoring may be a sign of problem with their enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Children should be examined by an otolaryngologist in order to evaluate what kind of surgery is appropriate to return the child to full health.

Snorers may suffer from the following:

  • Excessive bulkiness of the throat tissue
  • Obstructed nasal airways
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue
  • Long soft palate/uvula

Why is snoring serious?

Medically
It disturbs not only your sleeping pattern, but also those around you. It likewise deprives you of adequate rest. Another serious thing to take into account is that it may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea which can lead to a myriad of health problems in the future.

Socially
Snoring can make you an object of ridicule and embarrassment. It can also cause sleepless nights and fatigue to your partner.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Snoring may be a clear sign of a much more serious condition- obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. It is best characterized by multiple episodes of “stopped breathing” episodes that can last from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, and occurring up to 10 times every hour, due to the collapsing or narrowing of the passage ways. When this happens, amounts of oxygen in the blood become significantly lower and cause the heart to work harder. It also disrupts the body of a natural sleep cycle, which causes fatigue during the day.

An immediate effect of sleep apnea to a snorer is that they should sleep lightly enough and keep their muscles tense so as not to restrict the airflow to the lungs. Since the snorer may not sleep properly throughout the night, their condition can be poor during the day. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and other medical problems.

Evaluation of a heavy snorer

All snorers who possess any of the following symptoms should immediately be evaluated for possible OSA:

  • History of a stroke
  • Witnessed episodes of breath pauses or apnea when sleeping
  • Heart disease
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • High blood pressure

Available treatments

Treatment of OSA depends on the diagnosis and level(s) of the narrowing of the airways. In most cases, more than one area is involved.

Snoring as well as OSA may respond to various available treatments offered by many professionals:

  • A custom fit oral appliance which repositions the lower jaw may help alleviate the problem of both snorers and those diagnosed with OSA.
  • A significant loss in weight can improve snoring and OSA
  • A device called CPAP may be a solution for some snorers and those suffering from OSA. They open the airway by a small amount of positive pressure via a mask worn during sleep. Currently, CPAP is the initial treatment for those with OSA.
  • Thermal ablation that reduces tissues in bulk in areas of the soft palate, tongue, and nasal turbinates. These treatments may require several trips and should be done by a professional only.
  • Genioglossus and hyoid advancement is a surgical procedure that is often associated with sleep apnea. This prevents the collapse of the lower throat and pulls the tongue muscles forward, so the air passage way remains unobstructed.
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgery that treats snoring and OSA. It removes the excess soft palate and while healing ,stiffens it so that a sudden burst of air won’t be able to vibrate against it.

Self-help for light snorer

Adults suffering from mild snoring can resort to self-help remedies and simple lifestyle changes

  • Avoiding sleeping pills, tranquilizers, sedatives, and antihistamines before bedtime
  • Establishing a regular sleeping pattern
  • Elevating the head of the bed by atleast four inches
  • Adopting a healthy and athletic lifestyle by developing good muscle tone and weight lost.
  • Avoiding alcohol atleast four hours before sleeping and heavy meals atleast 3 hours before hitting the hay.