Almost 40 million people in the US are affected by habitual snoring. Almost one quarter of the adult population snores regularly and about half snore occasionally.
Snoring increases as people age, and it affects more men than women. Very loud, continuous snoring may be an early indication of sleep apnea, which, in turn, may lead to a constant feeling of fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, and increased blood pressure.
Interrupted sleep due to snoring can leave you feeling tired. Snoring can also affect your spouse’s ability to sleep restfully.
What causes snoring?
The snoring sound comes from the vibration of soft tissue at the back of the throat or nose when the airway is narrowed. The narrowing may be from:
- An excess of tissue in the throat causing the airway to collapse when the person inhales. This is the most common “culprit” of snoring.
- A deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, chronic sinus infections or allergies which cause swelling of the nasal passages.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids may also cause obstruction of the airway.
During sleep, the body’s muscles relax, which can cause excess tissue to collapse into the upper airway (back of the mouth, nose and throat) and block breathing. When breathing is interrupted, the body reacts by waking just enough to start breathing again. These arousals may occur hundreds of times each night but they do not fully awaken the patient, who remains unaware of the loud snoring and gasping for air typically associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
Habitual snoring is often a precursor of more serious upper airway disorders and results from a recent study indicate that one in three men and nearly one in five women who snore habitually suffer from some degree of obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep disordered breathing, if left untreated, tends to get progressively worse as we age. This is mostly due to the effects of extra weight, gravity and loss of overall muscle tone.
Sleep disordered breathing can lead to other health problems such as increased risk of high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, stroke and, in the most severe cases, death.
Patients with sleep apnea may not get the amount or quality of sleep they need, leading to daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and numerous other complaints. Daytime drowsiness and lack of alertness can seriously increase the risks of car accidents and other work-related accidents.
Specialists in sleep disorders will conduct extensive tests to determine the cause of your disorder and recommend appropriate treatment.
Sleep disordered breathing is a very treatable disorder. There are more options available now than ever. These options include, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), various surgeries, dental appliances, behavioral therapies and other combinations of therapies.