Snoring has a reputation as being an annoying habit that can drive your bed partner up a wall. While it’s often met with a nudge of an elbow or roll of the eyes, chronic snoring is actually a much more insidious problem that is nothing to scoff at. It indicates that something is blocking your airway, at least partially, while you sleep. For a lot of people, the occasional bout of snoring is a temporary issue – maybe your head is positioned oddly, or you have a cold. But for many others, snoring is a much more prevalent problem and a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In fact, chronic snoring affects one in four Americans, making it a problem that impacts millions of individuals on a nightly basis.
Here’s an overview from Dr. Pradeep Sinha, snoring and sleep apnea specialist in Atlanta, of the common causes of snoring, how to differentiate between snoring and sleep apnea and what signs to look for to determine whether you need to be evaluated for OSA.
What Are the Causes of Snoring?
Snoring itself is the sound you make when your airway is partially blocked by something soft enough to vibrate. Air is still flowing through the airway, but it has to get past something like the back of your tongue, structures in your nose, your tonsils, excess mucus due to congestion, or other soft tissues. As the air flows past, the vibrations of these airway-blocking structures produce the snoring sound, which ranges from very soft to very loud, depending on the degree and type of obstruction.
When Is Snoring Really Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition wherein a partial airway block becomes a complete block, and you actually stop breathing in your sleep. Eventually you do start breathing again, but in the meantime, you’ve suffered a loss of oxygen, which can affect brain function. The noise from snoring and the automatic response your body takes to restart the breathing process – both of which can wake you up a bit – cause a loss of sleep, which produces a whole host of other side effects.
Only a doctor can officially diagnose your sleep apnea. However, look for these signs to indicate whether you should arrange to have an evaluation:
- You’re very sleepy during the day, despite thinking you’ve slept for a normal number of hours
- You’re much more moody or irritable than you have been in the past
- You have an unexplained sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up
- You frequently have headaches when you wake up
- You have memories of gasping or being unable to breathe overnight
- You can’t concentrate well during the day
Snoring is a problem that affects more than those who are doing the snoring. If your partner is a chronic snorer or suffering from OSA, your quality and quantity of sleep at night can be compromised as well.
The effects of sleep apnea are wide-ranging. While a sore throat or headache is an immediate effect, over the long term, you may experience cardiovascular problems, an increase in accidents because of drowsy driving, and other serious health risks.
What To Do if You Think You May Have Sleep Apnea
If you think you might have OSA, or there are indications that your bed partner may have it, contact a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. Snoring and Sleep Institute of Atlanta is a leading practice in the Atlanta area that can evaluate your condition. We are known for our CPAP alternatives, treating the underlying causes of your snoring problem without the use of the mask.
Our practice offers several treatments that are minimally invasive or non-invasive and performed from the comfort and convenience of our office. Treatments are tailored to the specific cause of your snoring or sleep apnea. For example, if the problem is that your tongue is collapsing into your airway when you sleep and causing obstruction, a procedure called ablation of the tongue can be performed in-office to shrink the tissues at the base of the tongue using radio frequency energy. In addition, oral appliance therapy can help by repositioning your tongue and jaw to prevent airway obstruction. This is achieved through the use of a custom-made oral device.
Start your road to better sleep by taking our snore quiz to evaluate the severity of your snoring. Then, contact the Snoring and Sleep Institute of Atlanta to schedule a consultation. Even if your snoring turns out to be nothing more than a little snoring (instead of sleep apnea), there are ways to end the noise and once again achieve a pleasant night’s sleep.
Contact the Snoring and Sleep Institute of Atlanta to schedule an appointment today or get started by filling out the form on this page.