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Yearning for the Sounds of Silence What to Do About Snoring

Yearning for the Sounds of Silence What to Do About Snoring

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Sponsored Content


SUBMITTED PHOTOAs many as 45% of all adults snore at least occasionally. While snoring is just a nuisance for most, some people snore due to obstructive sleep apnea, a serious health condition linked to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

Whether it sounds like a low hum, a recurring snort, or a loud buzzsaw, snoring is a common phenomenon, affecting an estimated 45% of adults at least periodically. However, the impact snoring can have on your health and well-being varies dramatically from person to person.

Grass Valley critical care and sleep medicine specialist John Lace, MD, says several factors can make us more susceptible to snoring.

“Snoring is more common as we age since muscle tone in the throat decreases, leading to more constriction,” Dr. Lace says. “Persons with a long soft palate, a large tongue, and enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils will be more likely to snore. Persons with narrowed nasal passages, such as with a deviated nasal septum also are more likely to snore.”

Other risk factors include smoking, being pregnant, having allergies or upper respiratory infections, and being obese.

“If we have more body fat in our bellies, we tend to have more in the tissues around our throat as well,” Dr. Lace explains.

In addition, Dr. Lace says that snoring is more common in men and can be hereditary, given that our facial structures are inherited.

Alcohol and sedatives can also increase the likelihood you will snore by decreasing muscle tone in the throat, reducing our ability to open up our upper airway.

Dr. Lace explains that there are four types of snoring:

Nose-based snoring: Based on factors that cause narrowing of the nasal passages.

Mouth-based snoring: This happens in people who breathe through their mouth when they sleep, for example if their nose is blocked or their tonsils are large.

Tongue-based snoring: This may occur if the tongue slides backward during sleep or the tongue is enlarged. This is worse when someone is on their back or if they take alcohol or sedatives.

Throat-based snoring: This is the loudest form and is a strong indicator of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where a person’s breathing is recurrently partially or completely obstructed.

Snoring becomes a health concern when it is determined to be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a breathing disorder in which the airway gets blocked or collapsed during sleep, causing repeated lapses in breath. OSA is estimated to affect between 2-9% of all adults.

“If the snoring seems excessively loud to a bed partner, or if the bed partner observes irregular breathing or pauses in breathing OSA may be present,” Dr. Lace says. “Other symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, often in the morning on arising, in the afternoon, or in the early evening after supper. Patients may experience waking up gasping or out of breath and may have morning headaches. Patients have shared with me dreams in which they thought they were smothering or choking.”

Sleep apnea is linked to serious cardiovascular concerns. Dr. Lace says patients who have difficult to control high blood pressure or a cardiac rhythm disturbance like atrial fibrillation are often referred to him by their cardiologist to screen for sleep apnea.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available.

“The most common treatment that I prescribe is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure),” Dr. Lace says. “This is delivered by a medically precise air compressor via an airtight mask that fits over the nose, or within the nostrils, or over the nose and mask, held in place by a comfortable harness over the head.”

For less severe cases of sleep apnea, patients may find treatment solutions with their dentist.

“If sleep apnea is mild or moderate, a dentist such as Stacy Fore, DDS, can create a custom fitted oral appliance that pulls the lower jaw forward a couple of millimeters and can work for some patients,” Dr. Lace explains. “There is also a newly approved device surgically implanted by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon that has a generator that, when turned on, electrically contracts the base of the tongue away from the back of the throat. This is a backup treatment for patients who do not improve with or cannot tolerate the other treatments.”

For the millions of people whose snoring is more of a nuisance than a health concern, Dr. Lace says sometimes lifestyle changes like losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol can help.

“Everyone responds differently,” Dr. Lace says. “Other things people can try including sleeping on one’s side, not on one’s back; nasal dilating strips for nasal snoring; or an anti-snoring mouthpiece fashioned by a dentist.”

If you think snoring may be affecting your sleep (or that of your partner), talk to your doctor today about treatment recommendations.


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