While it’s normal to experience some difficulty related to sleeping, regular sleep disturbances that are increasingly problematic may indicate the presence of a sleep disorder. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 million Americans are affected by some type of sleep disorder and 37 million suffer on a regular basis. Symptoms of sleep disorders include not being able to sleep through the night and consistent fatigue even after adequate amounts of sleep. As a result, some sleep disorders have been known to correlate with a higher risk for heart and vascular disease. The most commonly known sleep disorders are Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Insomnia, Narcolepsy, and Restless Leg Syndrome.
Most medical professionals will refer patients to a specialist for the diagnosis and treatment of a sleep disorder. The most common method for diagnosis requires patients to undergo a sleep study. Patients will stay overnight in a sleep center with sensors hooked up to various parts of the body. While sleeping, the sensors record data related to the patient's’ brain waves, heartbeat, and breathing, among other things. After a night of observation and reviewing data, medical professionals can more adequately diagnosis the problem and disorder.
While almost everyone will snore at some point in their lives, most people do not realize the health impacts of chronic daily snoring. For many, it’s simply an annoyance to themselves or, most often, their bed partner. However, snoring can be a sign of, or contribute to, some pretty serious medical conditions. Snoring occurs typically when you breathe in but can also happen when you exhale. More men snore than women and those between the ages of 30 and 60 years old are more likely to snore than other age groups. Almost everyone, however, will snore occasionally.
Snoring itself is produced when the soft tissues of the neck and upper airway vibrate during sleep. It is accentuated when there is increased upper airway resistance which often present in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleeping disorder characterized by periods of time where the individual actually stops breathing because the upper airway resistance is so severe. Snoring is also frequently associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, nasal polyps, and sinus disorders.
Since snoring can be related to other medical conditions, you should discuss any chronic issues with snoring or sleeping with a medical professional to rule out other problems and find ways to correct the snoring. Conservative therapies such as smoking cessation, weight loss, alcohol avoidance before bedtime, and sleeping in the lateral position should all be considered as first-line. When those are not successful or not feasible right away, there are other methods to curtail snoring and the problems they cause.
Oral appliances (OA), such as specialized mouthguards, work by increasing the size of the upper airway during sleep, thus decreasing the tendency to snore. Most oral appliances advance the mandible forward thus changing the position of the soft palate, pulling back the tongue, or a combination of these mechanisms. For those who have more mild cases of snoring or sleep apnea, or who have failed other therapies, oral appliances may be the perfect fit; they are highly effective when used properly.
For others, surgery is the answer to their snoring woes. Some surgical procedures that treat snoring include turbinate reduction, a quick outpatient procedure that reduces the size of the nasal turbinates, shelf-like structures in the nose that can contribute to blockage of the nasal passageways and thus cause snoring. Another procedure called the pillar procedure involves inserting small woven implants into the soft palate to improve airflow, which takes care of snoring and sleep apnea. Radiofrequency ablation is used to shrink and tighten part of the tongue to create more breathing space, making snoring less likely. Laser tonsillectomy is a cutting-edge, in-office treatment to remove tonsils, providing relief from snoring and sleep apnea if it’s due to chronic tonsillitis, tonsil stones, or enlarged tonsils.
For diagnosis and treatment of potential sleep and snoring disorders, make an appointment with one of our doctors. You can take our Sleep Apnea Quiz on our website for more information, as well.