Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring and sleep apnea is a general term for a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea (apnea: Greek for “without breath) is characterized by frequent stops in breathing during sleep, as long as a minute, as often as a hundred times per night. Snoring and sleep apnea (obstructive) is the most common form of sleep apnea, occurring when the throat, neck and tongue muscles relax so much they block the airway. cpap masks
Snoring, caused by air vibrating in the back of the mouth, nose and throat, is a major symptom of snoring sleep apnea. Snoring on its own, however, does not indicate snoring sleep apnea. Nearly fifty percent of normal adults snore on occasion, half of that snore habitually. Many things can cause snoring: poor muscle tone in the tongue, use of alcohol, enlarged tonsils or nasal congestion from allergies.
Snoring, no matter how loud, does not indicate the severity of the blockage in snoring sleep apnea. Obstruction in the airway can create a lot of turbulence and sound, but if the airway is extremely blocked, too little air may exist to make noise at all. The premier indicator of snoring and sleep apnea is when the snoring–and breathing–stops. These episodes of breathlessness, apnea events, often end with a deep gasp. Subsequently, breathing and snoring, resumes.
Snoring and sleep apnea can have serious effects. In addition to the resulting daytime grogginess and decreased functionality from lack of sleep, persons with snoring sleep apnea have an over 40% increased risk of hypertension. In addition, unlike most cases of hypertension, readings for a snoring sleep apnea sufferer do not drop during sleep. Stroke is another consequence, along with a 30% higher risk of heart attack or death.
Snoring and sleep apnea is widespread among the population, affecting over 18 million Americans. Because the symptoms are general, the disorder is greatly under treated. Persons suffering from snoring sleep apnea are usually unaware of the apnea events, and incur rather vague waking symptoms: grogginess, dry mouth, raw throat. Since we are a nation of sleep-deprived people, sufferers often do not recognize the need to consult a physician.
Fortunately, snoring and sleep apnea is easily diagnosed. First, an examination by a physician can pinpoint any structural problems in the mouth and throat. Second, the sufferer may undergo testing at a sleep lab. Third, results of the exam and of the sleep lab are studied to determine if the disorder exists, its severity and the proper plan of treatment.
Treatments for snoring and sleep apnea vary according to severity and the sufferer’s medical history. Lifestyle changes such as side sleeping or giving up smoking can greatly reduce the problem. Oral devices can widen the airway by keeping the tongue out of the way, or by pumping air into the throat via a facial mask. Lasers and radio frequencies can reduce tongue size, and surgery, usually a last resort, can remove obstructive tissue or reposition the jaw. Because snoring sleep apnea is a chronic disorder, treatments may be adjusted over time to increase effectiveness.