Everyone has a snoring story to tell. Whether it be the time you woke up the whole house sawing logs as a kid, or the time your partner kept you up all night when you had a big meeting the next day, snoring is an all too common occurrence.
Snoring is responsible for countless hours of lost sleep, and a good majority of couples sleeping in separate rooms. But what many may not know is that snoring can be a danger to your health in addition to bothersome. Research has shown snoring to be a cause of divorce or separation in many cases.
What causes snoring?
Quite simply, snoring is caused by a partially obstructed airway. When you sleep, the soft tissue and muscles in your mouth and throat relax, causing your airway to become smaller. If your airway becomes small enough, your soft palate and uvula begin to vibrate when you inhale and exhale. These vibrations are the cause of the sound most people call snoring. This is very much like a reed musical instrument.
How common is snoring?
According to recent sleep studies, approximately 45% of the general population, 30% of men and women over age 30, 40% of the middle-aged population, and 6% of children snore on a regular basis.
Is snoring dangerous?
Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), snorers have three times as many motor vehicle accidents as non-snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age.
Snoring sounds are caused when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. There are patients whose snoring has decibel levels as loud as jet engines and even some who have had neighbors in the apartment or even the house next door call the police to complain about the noise.
Only recently have the adverse medical effects of snoring and its association with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) been recognized. Various methods are used to alleviate snoring and/or OSA. They include behavior modification, sleep positioning, appliance therapy, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), and Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP), and jaw adjustment techniques.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be a strong indicator of the condition known as sleep apnea. As one of the most common symptoms, partners with concerns are often the ones to bring this problem to light and ask the snorer to seek sleep disorder/sleep apnea treatment. Sleep apnea patients are actually lucky that the condition manifests vocally, so the condition can be treated early, before it becomes life threatening. Because of the intermittent periods of stopped breathing, patients do not get the amount of oxygen needed and health risks are increased. Sleep apnea has been linked to cases of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, high blood pressure and other dangerous conditions.
How snoring affects others
In a Mayo Clinic sleep study, researchers estimated that snorers cause their partners to lose about an hour of sleep each night, on average. Even if sleep apnea is not indicated, the disruption of the sleep cycles of family members can create a hazard. Recent studies have indicated that repeated disruption of sleep patterns can cause sufferers to perform motor skills at or below the levels of individuals who are legally intoxicated! So even if your snoring is not a sign of sleep apnea, it is likely that your snoring could be a real threat to your loved ones because impaired reaction behind the wheel of an automobile can lead to disaster regardless of the cause.
How to lessen the effects of snoring
A variety of oral appliances are available to control snoring and act as "volume control." While there is no one magic solution, there are several ways to control snoring and help your partner get a good night's rest. Limit the use of alcohol and sedatives as they tend to increase snoring. Also, try to keep your weight at a healthy range, as weight gain is usually a factor in heavy snorers. If Dr. Shapira does find signs of sleep apnea, there are several viable treatment options. A variety of oral appliances are available to control snoring and act as "volume control." Medication, behavioral therapy, surgery and anti-aging medication are a few of your options. If you or a loved one snores, make sure it is not hazardous to your health.
Why treat snoring and sleep apnea?
Snoring has not only been discovered as a symptom of sleep apnea, but many believe it may actually cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that has been linked to numerous injuries and even death. Oxygen flow to the brain is restricted, and the patient is put at risk for potentially life-threatening health problems. Following the drop in oxygen that occurs during an apneic episode, reoxygenation releases enormous numbers of free radicals into the system. If left untreated, patients with apnea are 4 times more likely to suffer from a stroke, and 3 times more likely to contract heart disease. Sleep apnea patients run a higher risk of having hypertension, diabetes and other related conditions. Sleep apnea patients often experience lack of energy and daytime drowsiness due to their interrupted sleeping patterns, which can essentially affect every aspect of their lives.