Everyone knows what snoring sounds like, and everyone knows how irritating it can be. But what exactly is snoring and what causes it? It may not be as benign as you think.
Snoring happens when air passes through the blocked or restricted breathing airway, creating vibrations in the tissues of the throat that produce audible noises. It can range from light and barely audible to heavy and disruptive.
What causes snoring?
Since extra tissue near the throat increases your chances of snoring, it’s no surprise that people who are overweight and women who are pregnant frequently snore.
Normal aging also tends to cause these muscles to relax, which explains why snoring is more common in the elderly population.
While both sexes snore, men are more likely to snore than women.
There are also genetic factors that can contribute to snoring. Some people snore due to the shape of the structures around the breathing passages. These include having enlarged adenoids and tonsils, a long uvula, small or recessed jaw, a large tongue and a deviated nasal septum (an asymmetrical wall between the nostrils).
Allergies and congestion can also play a role. Really, anything that prevents you from breathing normally can cause snoring. This includes alcohol and muscle relaxants, since they relax the muscles in your throat.
Sleeping on your back may also make you more likely to snore, which is due to gravity and the tongue falling into the back of your throat. When that happens, the diameter of the throat becomes smaller and you’ll be more inclined to snore.
It’s important to know that everyone has the possibility to snore once in a while. In fact, around 40% of men and 24% of women are habitual snorers. Light snoring might not even disrupt your quality of sleep.
However, Chronic, loud snoring can be an excellent indicator that you may have a disorder called Sleep apnea. This disorder is serious business. It is a risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other health problems. Sleep Apnea affects millions of people worldwide, and 80% of people remain undiagnosed, left puzzled as to why they seemingly can’t get a good night’s sleep! Don’t be one of those people!
Besides snoring, what are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
If you have any of the following symptoms in conjunction with your snoring, you may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)
- Choking or gasping while you sleep
- Pauses in breathing noticeable to your bed-partner
- Nighttime heartburn
- Morning headaches
- Morning jaw pain
- Sore throat when you wake up
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Moodiness or depression
- Frequent urination throughout the night
Frequent, habitual snoring is more than just a nuisance for you and your partner and may be indicative of sleep apnea. If you experience any of the above symptoms along with your snoring, contact us to consult with our board certified Sleep Doctor, who will be able to answer your questions and make an assessment of your sleep-related breathing, and you will be one step closer to a better night’s sleep!
How do you prevent snoring?
There are some behavioral changes that can help to prevent snoring, such as:
Weight Loss– Weight loss can help to reduce the excess tissue around your throat which can help to reduce snoring.
Positional Therapy– Changing the position of how you sleep, such as side-sleeping, may help reduce snoring.
Avoiding Alcohol- Avoiding alcohol and other muscle relaxants can decrease snoring.
Note: If your snoring is due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea, these treatments may not work and you’ll require more extensive treatment and care.
Depending on the severity of your snoring, our Sleep Doctor may want to conduct a home sleep apnea test (HSAT).
What does a home sleep apnea test require?
A home sleep apnea test is a simplified monitor that tracks your oxygen and breathing levels including airflow and breathing effort while you sleep.
You will receive the home sleep test equipment with an instructional video and easy to read instructions. The equipment includes a small probe that goes over your finger to measure oxygen and pulse rate, and a small probe that goes close to your nostrils to measure airflow. A comfortable belt is also placed around your chest to measure its rise and fall as you breathe.
You wear the device for a single night, then we will pick it back the next day. Your study is hand scored and ultimately read and interpreted by our doctor. You’ll then be notified to schedule a follow up teleconsult visit, to review the results with our doctor.
This home test is usually much more convenient, comfortable, and less expensive than an in-lab sleep study. However, sometimes the HSAT is unreliable and an in-lab study might be necessary. Our doctor works closely with in-lab sleep centers and will recommend a study in the center if necessary.
Snoring is harmless, what’s the big deal?
Does your partner complain of your snoring? Do you often feel drowsy the next day even though you think you got enough sleep?
If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, you should contact us. Snoring may seem harmless to you, but it could be a symptom of an underlying condition like Sleep Apnea. Our doctor will get you on track to better, more restful sleep in no time, and you never even have to leave the comfort of your own home!
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs in all age groups and both sexes. It is commonly undiagnosed and 80% of patients don’t know they have it. Primarily, there are 2 forms of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and Central sleep apnea (CSA).
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among the two. It happens when the muscles in the back of your throat are too relaxed and block the airway, causing complete or partial obstruction. You essentially stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. This signals your brain to partially wake up to tell your body to breathe, as you need to breathe to stay alive! This can cause you to wake up more than 100 times a night, depending on the severity of your sleep apnea. These awakenings may be too brief that you don’t remember it.
The severity of sleep apnea depends on the number of times you have interrupted breathing per hour:
- Mild OSA: 5-14 interruptions of breathing per hour
- Moderate OSA: 15-29 interruptions of breathing per hour
- Severe OSA: 30 or more interruptions of breathing per hour
These interruptions of breathing are often followed by gasping, choking, and snorting sounds which are the result of trying to take a deep breath to fight past obstruction so that you can breathe. Once the breath is taken, the brain returns to sleep. But these events may be subtle and may even be silent in certain people.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is different, and is more of a communication problem with the brain, rather than a mechanical problem with the airways. With CSA, your brain fails to signal the muscles that are supposedly regulating the breathing. CSA is less common, around 15% of the sleep apnea cases. For the rest of the blog, I will mainly focus on OSA. However, symptomatically speaking, they are similar disorders.
What can lead to Obstructive sleep apnea?
Let’s go over risk factors
Weight is a primary risk factor of OSA. Excess fats can contribute to blocking up your airways, making it harder for you to breathe as you sleep. However, 40% of people with sleep apnea are not overweight, so other risk factors may be the cause.
Lifestyle choices also contribute. Alcohol and other sedatives (sleeping pills) can relax your breathing muscles, which can contribute to blocking off your airways as you sleep.
Your physical features can also play a role: larger neck sizes, a small upper airway, a small jaw, a recessed chin, a large tongue, tonsils or uvula can all contribute and put you at risk for OSA.
Demographics and age play a role. OSA is more common in men and post-menopausal women. OSA prevalence also increases with age. After the age of 60, the risk increases dramatically.
Other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma are also at risk for OSA.
If your family has a history of OSA, you are 4 times more likely to get the disorder yourself.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Snoring – loud, disruptive and regular snoring is a sign that you may suffer from sleep apnea. However, not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.
Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep commonly noticed by a bed partner. This may or may not be followed by gasping or choking.
Sleep deprivation – people with sleep apnea tend to be sleep deprived because of the numerous breathing interruption throughout the night and subsequently waking up. Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous problems with cognitive function like learning difficulties and trouble with concentration and memory. It can also result to sexual dysfunction. Sleep deprivation can be catastrophic for your over-all well being leading to depression, irritability and mood problems.
Some lesser known symptoms include night sweats around the neck and upper chest, high frequency of nighttime urination, frequent morning headache, dry mouth and sore throat.
What are the consequences of sleep apnea?
OSA is associated with higher rates of stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and atrial fibillation.
In children, OSA is associated with poor growth, developmental delays, and cognitive/behavioral problems. Excessively tired children often display attention deficit type symptoms instead of the typical adult signs of sleepiness.
Do you currently have Obstructive sleep apnea?
- Do you watch TV with your family and fall asleep as soon as you hit the couch? Do they say you snore loudly and gasp for breath?
- Has your partner left the bedroom because they can’t take the snore at night?
- Do you feel drowsy even though you think you are getting enough sleep at night?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, just like millions out there.
So, what can you do about it?
If you or your partner think that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact us at Cebu Sleep Supplies to connect you to a board certified Sleep Medicine provider and expert in sleep apnea. The sleep doctor will do a full history to assess your risk of sleep apnea. This will be the first step to finding the appropriate means of diagnosis and treatment. After this, you are well on your way to a better nights sleep and healthier you.
Start improving the quality of your life from the comfort of your home.