Snoring occurs when our upper airways narrow during sleep. As a result, air is unable to travel smoothly through to our windpipe and lungs, and subsequently, our bodies are unable to take in enough oxygen.
While snoring alone does not necessarily have any major impact on our health, there is a relationship between snoring and sleep apnea, which is a respiratory disorder which causes the patient to stop breathing or have shallow breathing for short periods at various intervals throughout the night. It can lead to poor sleep quality, which can result in a range of physical, mental, and emotional health problems, such as fatigue, concentration and memory issues, mood swings, and metabolic derangement (which can cause diabetes and obesity).
Additionally, snoring and sleep apnea can eventually lead to issues such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and cerebrovascular disease, and is a well-known risk factor for heart attack and stroke, as well as cause a reduction in testosterone in men, which often leads to sexual dysfunction.
Who is at Risk?
Risk of developing snoring and sleep apnea can arise from many different issues, which include:
- Excessive weight; it has been found that those who are overweight have narrower upper airways.
- Those with regular nasal congestion or nasal allergies.
- Those with a crooked or curved nose. Those with a misshapen face or chin, such as a small chin (micrognathism) or a chin that droops down (retrognathia).
- Those with large tonsils that can block their respiratory tract.
- Those who regularly drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.
- Those who take medications which cause drowsiness, such as anti-allergens, sleeping tablets or stress relievers.
- Men are 6-10 times more likely to snore than women.
- Women are much more likely to snore after they have reached menopause.
- Those who have abnormally high growth hormone (acromegaly) or take too much testosterone supplements.
Negative Effects of Snoring
Some negative side effects of snoring include:
- Loud snoring disturbs the sleep of others
- Snoring briefly interrupts your sleep while your body gasps for air
Other symptoms include: frequent urination, feeling exhausted and dizzy in the morning, headaches and feeling unusually fatigued, irritable, and moody during the day. If you find that you are suffering from any of these symptoms, consult your doctor for observation in a sleep lab to conclude an appropriate route of treatment.
Reaching a Diagnosis
The diagnosis of snoring and sleep apnea can be completed by sleep lab monitoring, which requires the patient to stay overnight at the hospital. The diagnosis will be split into two stages, in which the first part will observe whether there is abnormal breathing or not during sleep and, if so, how often. The second part of the study will involve delivering appropriate therapy to help ease the symptoms of the condition by using a CPAP machine.
In the part of the study, hospital staff will attach the equipment to measure the patient’s brainwaves during deep sleep. Breathing will be measured by attaching the device to the patient’s nostrils, while a microphone will be attached to the neck to monitor snoring, and a pulse oximeter will be attached to the finger to monitor oxygen levels in the blood. Belts will be attached to the chest and abdomen to monitor breathing and movement. The legs will also be monitored for any abnormal movement. All of which provide the data gathered throughout the night for the diagnosis.
Diagnosis through sleep study assists the doctor in determining the type of snoring the patient is experiencing, its severity — either a simple snorer or having obstructive sleep apnea. Determining the type of snoring enables the doctor to determine the very best course of treatment.
Treatment for Snoring
Snoring and sleep apnea can be treated in many different ways, including:
- Losing weight, position treatment
- Using CPAP treatment to open narrow airways
- Using a special device to move the tongue or jaw forward to prevent blocking the upper airways
- Using a laser to vaporize the soft palate and uvula (LAUP treatment)
- Surgery to remodel the tissue in the throat (UPPP Surgery)
- Jaw surgery in order to widen the air passage in the throat