If you awake in the morning feeling tired or exhausted, if you experience daytime drowsiness, or if your snoring is proving disruptive to family life, you have reason enough for concern, but studies also show that problem snoring can prove symptomatic of a more serious medical condition.
Who Snores and Why
Surprisingly, almost half of us snore. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 45% of normal adults are occasional snorers. Habitual or problem snorers account for 25%, the Academy reports, and these are the individuals who tend to have underlying sleep disorders. If you are male and overweight, chances are you are more likely to develop a habitual snoring problem that will grow worse with age.
Most often the cause of snoring is simple:
Obstruction to the flow of air through the nose as seen with a deviated nasal septum, enlarged nasal turbinates or polyps can cause snoring.
Also, redundant tissue at the back of the mouth and nose can cause an interruption to the free flow of air through these passages. A long palate and uvula are usually the culprits.
At the end of the roof of the mouth, the soft tissue of the palate spans across the back of the throat and separates it from the opening to the nose. Attached to its end is the “bell” like uvula. As those structures dangle in the airway, they can vibrate particularly during the relaxed state of sleep causing the irritating and disturbing noises of snoring.
If noisy breathing proves to be the only problem, simple and quick new procedures are proving to be effective cures. Unfortunately, not all snoring problems are simple and doctors need to rule out more dangerous sleep disorders including sleep apnea.
Evaluating Snorers for Sleep Disorders
Snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea which disrupts breathing and poses a risk to life. An initial screening from taking of an in-depth medical history accompanied by a physical examination.
History taking is aided by questioning the snorer’s bed partner. Items explored include the patient’s medical condition and the medications being taken, weight gain, alcohol intake and sleeping position. Daytime sleepiness is also explored. The degree and type of snoring is detailed to determine the severity of the problem and to look for sleep apnea. The physical examination will also include a detailed ear, nose and throat exam to look for contributing nasal conditions, the shape of the palate and the voice box. This usually includes an endoscopic view of the nose, pharynx and larynx.
Based on the exam’s results, some snorers may be referred for further evaluation with a sleep study. While patients sleep, a painless polysomnogram test monitors their brain waves, breathing patterns, heart rate, oxygen level and muscle movements.
In the event that sleep apnea is diagnosed, appropriate treatment can be planned. This starts by avoiding causative factors such as alcohol, sedatives or heavy meals late in the day. It may involve weight loss and techniques to change the snorer’s sleeping position. The use of oral devices may be tried to keep the airway open. It will also include the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
How will my physician investigate my snoring?
Obstructive sleep apnea is ruled out by a thorough medical history, a careful physical examination of your mouth, throat and larynx and possibly a sleep study.
How will my snoring be treated?
Once OSA has been ruled out, either clinically by the physician or from a sleep study, a new non-surgical revolutionary treatment is now available. The Somnoplasty procedure gently reduces and stiffens the tissues in the soft palate and uvula, and does so without the pain associated with conventional and laser-assisted surgeries.
Your overall treatment may include weight loss and other lifestyle modifications
What is Somnoplasty?
Somnoplasty uses low-power, low-temperature radio frequency energy to treat a well-defined area in the uvula or soft palate. The procedure takes place in our office under local anesthesia, and typically takes less than an hour, including anesthesia.
Radio frequency energy is delivered beneath the surface layer of the soft palate, called mucosa. The treated tissue is heated just enough to create an extra area of coagulation. Over the next four to six weeks the treated tissue is naturally removed by the body, reducing the volume and stiffening the area responsible for your snoring. There may be some swelling and discomfort for a few days following the procedure, not unlike the feeling of an oncoming cold. During the next month or so you should experience a gradual decrease in snoring. Depending on your level of snoring the Somnoplasty procedure may need to be repeated. Since the delicate lining of the palate is protected, the Somnoplasty procedure is virtually painless and allows for a quick recovery.
Am I a candidate for Somnoplasty?
If you snore loudly and frequently and do not have other breathing disorders, the Somnoplasty procedure may be the solution for you. We will be able to evaluate your situation and determine whether you are a candidate for the Somnoplasty procedure.
What causes snoring?
Snoring occurs when floppy tissue in the airway relaxes during sleep and vibrates. Most snoring is caused by an enlarged soft palate and uvula at the back of the mouth, though the tongue, tonsils, and adenoids and congested nasal passages can also contribute to the sound. The level of snoring can be aggravated by excess weight, alcohol intake, and smoking.
Is snoring dangerous to my health?
Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious disorder in which the snorer stops breathing several times an hour during sleep. We will perform a full examination to determine whether you are a “simple snorer” or if you have a more significant breathing disorder. Either condition may be easily treated – simple snoring with the Somnoplasty.
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