According to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring affects approximately 90 million Americans. Although it is common among both genders, men are at a higher risk, particularly if they are overweight. Further, the adverse health effects that result from snoring can increase in severity with age.
Loud snoring, in particular, is troubling, as the National Sleep Foundation states that half of those who snore loudly suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. How can you tell whether or not snoring is the sign of a major sleep issue? And if it is, what should you do about it?
Snoring occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and the tongue falls back into this area. As this occurs, the throat narrows and the tissues begin to vibrate, causing the audible snoring noise. The more the throat narrows, the louder the sound. Mild snoring tends to have no serious health consequences unless it becomes worse and develops into a more severe disorder.
The Spectrum of Snoring
Snoring can be divided into three main categories: mild snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). On the annoying, but relatively harmless end of the spectrum is mild snoring, whereas obstructive sleep apnea is much more severe and should be taken seriously.
Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)
Upper airway resistance syndrome tends to begin as mild snoring but often takes a step further in progressing towards obstructive sleep apnea. UARS is similar to OSA in that it occurs when the tissues in the back of the throat relax and the airway narrows, often with fatty tissue blocking the airway. Those with UARS tend to have heavy, more labored breathing.
UARS leads to excessive sleepiness during the day and can also cause:
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Weight gain
- Frequent waking up during the night
One difference between UARS and OSA are that the pauses and halts in breathing that occur in those with OSA tend not to occur (or occur to a much lesser extent) in those with UARS.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat collapse intermittently during sleep, causing pauses or halts in breathing, which lowers the levels of oxygen in the blood. When the brain senses this lack of oxygen, it wakes the body up, but for very short periods that the sufferer usually does not remember or even realize. Often, those with OSA make choking or gasping sounds as they struggle for air.
- Loud snoring
- Excessive fatigue during the day
- Headaches in the morning
- Awakenings during the night
- Gasping and choking
- Dry/sore throat
- High blood pressure
How Common Is Sleep Apnea?
50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, and over 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea in particular. Those who are at a greater risk for having sleep apnea include: people who are overweight, have a small or narrow upper airway, have a large neck, small jaw or large overbite, those who use alcohol, smoke, and people who are over 40.
Snoring Shouldn’t Be Ignored
If you suffer from symptoms of severe snoring or those listed for UARS or OSA, a good place to start is by seeing your doctor. Sleep studies are often used to diagnose sleep disorders, which may require spending the night and having your vitals and sleep patterns monitored.
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP machines, are typically used to treat OSA, and they can be used to treat UARS as well. This involves a mask that is connected to an air pump being placed over the nose and mouth which blows oxygen into the throat to keep it open during sleep.
If you suffer from symptoms such as those listed above, you may have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. To start getting the care you need, you can contact dental sleep medicine practitioner Dr. Jeff Rodgers. He has over 20 years of experience treating snoring and sleep apnea using custom-made oral appliances, and one could be exactly what you need to start feeling like yourself in the morning again. To schedule a FREE consultation, click here.