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Sleep Disorders

Snoring

Snoring

Snoring is a common sleep disorder that can affect all people at any age, although it occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight. Snoring has a tendency to worsen with age. Forty-five percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25% are considered habitual snorers.

What Causes Snoring?

The physical obstruction of the flow of air through the mouth and nose is the cause of snoring. The walls of the throat vibrate during breathing, resulting in the distinctive sounds of snoring. Air flow can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:

  • Obstructed nasal airways: Partially blocked nasal passages require extra effort to transfer air through them while sleeping. This can pull together or collapse the non-rigid soft and dangling tissue of the throat, resulting in snoring. Some people snore only during allergy seasons or when they have a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum (a "crooked" wall that separates one nostril from the other) or nasal polyps can also cause obstruction and sleep problems.
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: Throat and tongue muscles can be too relaxed, which allows them to collapse and fall back into the airway. This can result from deep sleep, alcohol, and some sleeping pills. Normal aging causes further relaxation of these muscles and increases the potential for snoring.
  • Bulky throat tissue: Being overweight can cause bulky throat tissue. Also, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.
  • Long soft palate and/or uvula: One of the most common causes of snoring, a long soft palate or uvula (the dangling tissue in back of the mouth) can block the opening at the back of the throat. When these structures vibrate and bump against one another during sleep, the airway becomes obstructed and causes snoring

Health Risks of Snoring?

  1. Long interruptions of breathing (more than 10 seconds) during sleep caused by partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway. Serious cases can have total blockage episodes hundreds of times per night.
  2. Frequent waking from sleep, even though he or she may not realize it.
  3. Snorers with obstructive sleep apnea sleep lightly to try to keep their throat muscles tense enough to maintain airflow.
  4. Blood oxygen levels are often lowered, which causes the heart to pump harder and blood pressure to rise. The result is a poor night's sleep, which leads to drowsiness during the day and can interfere with the persons quality of life. Prolonged suffering from obstructed sleep apnea will result in higher blood pressure and may cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke.
  5. The stress of not getting enough oxygen causes the body to produce adrenalin, a chemical that helps our bodies fight and cope with stressful situations. Adrenalin also causes blood sugar to rise, which may eventually lead to diabetes.

Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea

Sleep Apnea Is Just Snoring

Myth. Although snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, there's a big difference between the two. People with sleep apnea actually stop breathing up to 400 times throughout the night. These interruptions last 10 to 30 seconds and are often followed by a snort when breathing resumes. This breaks your sleep cycle and can leave you tired during the day.

Sleep Apnea Is Not Dangerous

Myth. All those interruptions in sleep take a toll on the body and mind. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to job-related injuries, car accidents, heart attacks, and strokes.

Sleep Apnea Blocks Your Breath

Fact. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. It happens when your tongue, tonsils, or other tissues in the back of the throat block the airway. When you try to breathe in, the air can't get through. Central sleep apnea is less common than OSA. Central sleep apnea means the brain doesn't always signal the body to breathe when it should.

Only the Old Get Sleep Apnea

Myth. Doctors estimate that more than 12 million Americans have OSA. Although it's more common after age 40, the disorder can affect people of all ages. You're more likely to develop OSA if you are overweight, male, African-American, or Latino. The condition also tends to run in families. Alcohol Will Help You Sleep

Myth. A nightcap may make you drowsy, but it does not promote good quality sleep. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the back of the throat. This makes it easier for the airway to become blocked in people with OSA. Sleeping pills have the same effect.

Sleep Apnea Is Rare in Kids

Myth. OSA is actually common in children, affecting as many as one in 10. In most cases, the symptoms are mild, and the child eventually outgrows the condition. But some children may develop behavioral issues or serious medical problems as a result of OSA.

Losing Weight Can Help

Fact. You may be able to improve OSA by making some changes in your life. If you're overweight, talk to your doctor about starting a weight loss program. Shedding even a small percentage of your body weight can improve your symptoms. If you smoke, ask your doctor about products that can help you quit.

Lying On Your Side Can Help

Fact. If you sleep on your back, gravity can pull tissues in your throat down, where they're more likely to block your airway. Sleeping on your side instead may help open the throat. There are special pillows to help keep you on your side. Some people even use shirts with tennis balls sewn to the back.

A Mouthpiece Works for Some

Fact. A dentist or orthodontist can specially make a mouthpiece or oral appliance to ease mild sleep apnea. The mouthpiece is custom made for the individual and adjusts the position of the lower jaw and tongue. You put it in at bedtime to help keep your airway open while you sleep.

CPAP Is Effective Treatment

Fact. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A CPAP machine blows a steady stream of air into the airway. The flow of air is adjusted until it's strong enough to keep the airway open while you sleep. CPAP is the most common treatment for adults with moderate to severe OSA. ry Surgery If Nothing Else Works

Myth. In some patients, surgery may be able to cure OSA. A good example is a child with large tonsils that block the airway. Removing tonsils can often provide a solution. In adults, surgery may improve symptoms by shrinking or stiffening floppy tissues. But this is not an option for everyone. Patients should consider the pros and cons and their doctor's opinion before going forward with a surgical procedure.