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Is Snoring Preventing Adequate Sleep?

Snoring is a harsh, hoarse sound that occurs when breathing is obstructed while one is sleeping.  Oftentimes, snoring indicates a serious health concern. It can also be a nuisance to a spouse or partner.

What is Snoring?

Persistent loud snoring could be an indication of sleep apnea, which blocks the airway and interrupts the restorative REM sleep cycles. Untreated apnea can lead to long-term health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even play a role in obesity. Furthermore, snoring interrupts sleep patterns and can lead to daytime fatigue and loss of focus, which can be extremely hazardous in the workplace and normal daily activities, such as driving.

Some amount of snoring is considered normal and harmless, such as during times of illness when the nasal passageways are stuffed and swollen. When you fall asleep, the muscles in the throat relax and the airways narrow. For some people, they narrow too much, so they are forcing air in and out of these narrowed tubes and creating a vibration in the surrounding tissues. This is what creates that harsh, hoarse, vibrating sound.

Causes of Snoring

About half of all adults in the US snore occasionally. Snoring can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal polyps
  • Enlarged uvula, tonsils, or tongue
  • Elongated soft palate
  • Small jawbone
  • Large neck size
  • Smoking
  • Frequent allergies

Is it Sleep Apnea?

There are several types of sleep apnea, but snoring is the most common symptom of all types.  Symptoms include:

  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration
  • Problems with memory
  • Irritability and inability to cope with stress
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent bouts of depression
  • Headaches, especially upon wakening in the morning

Treatment for Snoring

Generally, the first line of treatment for snoring is lifestyle changes, i.e., weight loss, avoiding alcohol, changing sleep position, and treating nasal congestion. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause of snoring, then other treatments may be considered including:

  • Use of oral appliances
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine
  • Surgery (traditional or laser)

The most common treatment for this type of snoring is the use of a CPAP machine or an oral appliance. The CPAP involves wearing a mask that pressurizes oxygen while you sleep. The mask is attached to a pump that provides enough oxygen to keep the airways open. As many people find this an uncomfortable treatment measure due to the mask and loud noise of the machine, oral appliances such as a form-fitting dental mouthpiece may be considered. It advances the position of the jaw, soft palate, and tongue to keep the airways open.

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