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Snoring

Snoring is, at its simplest, vibration in the throat, mouth and nose and the sound that results. It is due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases it can be loud and unpleasant. Snoring during sleep may be a sign, or first alarm, of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA.)
Is snoring preventing you and your partner from getting a good night's rest?

Causes

  • Throat weakness, causing the throat to close during sleep.
  • Mispositioned jaw, often caused by tension in the muscles.
  • Fat gathering in and around the throat.
  • Obstruction in the nasal passageway.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • The tissues at the top of airways touching each other, causing vibrations.
  • Relaxants such as alcohol or drugs relaxing throat muscles.
  • Sleeping on one’s back, which may result in the tongue dropping to the back of the mouth.

Impact

Snoring is known to cause sleep deprivation to snorers and those around them. If you snore and have symptoms such as daytime drowsiness, irritability, lack of focus, or sleepiness while driving, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, heart problems and stroke. A sleep specialist can diagnose and treat sleep apnea.

Prevalence

40% of adult men and 24% of women are habitual snorers.

Treatment

Almost all treatments for snoring focus on clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. Many patients are advised to do one or more of the following:

  • Lose weight to stop fat from pressing on the throat.
  • Stop smoking because it increases secretions that can clog the throat.
  • Sleep on their side to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat.

A number of other treatment options are also available, ranging from over-the-counter aids such as nasal or lubricating sprays and nasal strips or nose clips to “anti-snore” clothing and pillows.

Dental Appliances

Specially made dental appliances called mandibular advancement splints are a common treatment for snoring. They move the lower jaw forward slightly, pulling the tongue forward. Such appliances have been proven to be effective in reducing snoring and sleep apnea in cases where the apnea is mild to moderate.

Positive Airway Pressure

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often used to control sleep apnea and the snoring associated with it. To keep the airway open, a device pumps a controlled stream of air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over the nose, mouth, or both.

Surgery

Surgery is sometimes advised to correct  snoring. Some procedures, such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, attempt to widen the airway by removing tissues in the back of the throat, including the uvula and pharynx. These surgeries are quite invasive, however, and there are risks of adverse side effects. Your sleep physician can give you more information about surgery and other treatments for snoring.