Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Snoring sounds are produced when the flow of air through the nasal passages to the mouth is somehow obstructed. Snoring occurs as a result of the collision and vibration of various anatomical structures located in the collapsible part of the airway.

An ENT specialist can help you determine the anatomic source causing you to snore, as well as the most optimal associated treatment solution.

Common Causes of Snoring

  • Bulky, excess throat tissue – large tonsils/adenoids, large neck circumference, masses, etc.
  • Over relaxed throat muscles will draw in from the sides into the airway
  • Over relaxed tongue will fall backwards into the airway
  • Long soft palate or uvula – leads to a narrow opening from the nose into the throat
  • Nasal Congestion – due to allergies, cold, or sinus infection
  • Structural deformities in the nose – deviated septum

Consequences of Snoring

  • Causes bed partner to experience sleepless nights and fatigue
  • Disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives one of adequate rest

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

An otolaryngologist will provide a thorough examination of the nose, mouth, throat, palate, and neck, often using a fiberoptic scope. An examination can reveal if the snoring is caused by nasal allergy, infection, nasal obstruction, or enlargement of tonsils and adenoids.  A sleep study in a laboratory or at home may be necessary to determine if snoring is due to OSA.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring may be a sign of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA is characterized by multiple episodes of breathing pauses greater than 10 seconds at a time, due to upper airway narrowing or collapse. This results in lower amounts of oxygen in the blood, which causes the heart to work harder. It also causes disruption of the natural sleep cycle, which makes people feel poorly rested despite adequate time in bed. Apnea patients may experience 30 to 300 such events per night.

Overtime, untreated obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of developing heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many other medical problems.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Will depend on the specific anatomic concern that needs to be addressed:

  • CPAP – nasal mask that opens airway with small amount of positive pressure during sleep
  • Custom Oral Appliance – holds the lower jaw forward during sleep
  • UPPP –  surgical removal of excess soft palate tissue to further open the airway
  • Thermal Ablation – procedure to reduce tissue bulk in the nasal turbinates, tongue base, or soft palate
  • Genioglossus & Hyoid Advancement – pulls tongue forward to open obstructed airway
  • Significant Weight Loss

Self-Help Techniques for Snoring

Adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should try the following self-help remedies:

  • Adopt a healthy and athletic lifestyle to develop good muscle tone and lose weight
  • Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol for at least four hours and heavy meals or snacks for three hours before retiring
  • Establish regular sleeping patterns
  • Sleep on your side rather than your back
  • Elevate the head of your bed

Text adapted from the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery . Used with permission.