Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age.
What causes snoring?
Snoring occurs when floppy tissue in the airway relaxes during sleep and vibrates. Most snoring is caused by an enlarged soft palate and uvula at the back of the mouth, although the tongue, tonsils, adenoids and congested nasal passages can also contribute to the sound.
Is snoring serious?
Snoring alone is a social problem and generally does not cause other medical problems. It can be serious when it makes the snorer an object of ridicule and causes others sleepless nights and resentfulness. Snoring can also disturb sleep patterns and deprive the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe, it can be associated with long-term health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea.
How can heavy snoring be treated?
Non-surgical approaches include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications or the use of an oral appliance to reposition the jaw.
A variety of surgical treatments are also available to reduce excess tissue and stiffen the tissues of the soft palate and uvula. Surgical options include cautery-assisted palatoplasty, coblation of the soft palate, and radio frequency soft palate reduction (somnoplasty).
A chronically snoring child should be examined for problems with his or her tonsils and adenoids. A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be required to return the child to full health.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
When breathing is interrupted by episodes of obstruction, it is known as obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea sufferers may experience 30 to 300 such events a night. An estimated18 million Americans have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, and the condition is more prevalent in men (4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women).
Is obstructive sleep apnea dangerous to my health?
Because sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing several times an hour during sleep, oxygen levels in the blood drop, forcing the heart to pump harder. The immediate effect of sleep apnea is that one must sleep lightly and keep his muscles tense in order to keep airflow to the lungs. Because the individual does not get a good rest, he may be sleepy during the day, which impairs job performance and makes him a hazardous driver or equipment operator. Many people with sleep apnea experience irritability, depression, morning headaches, and memory and concentration problems. After many years with this disorder, elevated blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and heart enlargement may occur.
Can obstructive sleep apnea be treated?
First, a physician must assess the severity of the sleep apnea. Typically, an overnight sleep test is used to evaluate breathing patterns and identify possible sleep disturbances, such as obstructive sleep apnea. After a careful assessment of a patient’s medical history and physical examination, the physician will discuss the diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives available and recommend the best treatment.
National Sleep Foundation: sleepfoundation.org
American Sleep Apnea Association: sleepapnea.org