Sleep Apnea

Snoring Isn’t Always Harmless

written by Collin County ENT

Snoring may be a nuisance, and sometimes this condition is an indication of deeper health concerns. If your family members are often complaining about the noises you are making at night, then consider talking to a doctor about your concerns. Snoring treatment not only brings peace to your home, but it’s also an essential step in protecting your health.

Is Snoring a Problem?

If you snore every once in a while, then it probably isn’t a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It’s normal for people to snore occasionally. This condition can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. Most people find that snoring often worsens with age.

One common complaint from snorers is that their bed partners experience disrupted sleep because of the unusual noises you are making at night. When your snoring is keeping other people up in the house, then it’s likely affecting your own sleep quality – even if you aren’t consciously aware of these issues.

When someone snores loudly or frequently, then it’s a sign that you might need to talk to a doctor. Often, these symptoms indicate other health issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Snoring Risk Factors and Causes

When you are sleeping, snoring sounds will occur if the flow of air through your nose and mouth is blocked. This airflow can be interrupted for various reasons:

  • Congestion: Even if you don’t snore regularly, you might find that these symptoms show up while you have a head cold or during allergy season. If there is congestion in the sinuses, then it’s harder for air to move through.
  • Blockages: Congestion isn’t the only cause of blocked nasal passageways. The presence of nasal polyps or a deviated septum could be affecting the movement of air when you are sleeping.
  • Sleep Position: Snoring is more common when you are sleeping on your back.
  • Muscle Tone: You can’t go to the gym to work out your tongue or throat muscles. But these muscles can collapse over time. When the muscles are too relaxed, then they collapse and block the airways.
  • Drug or Alcohol Use: Certain substances make the muscles relax, such as alcohol or muscle relaxers.
  • Throat Tissue: In children, oversized adenoids or tonsils can make them snore while sleeping. For adults, obesity is a risk factor that can cause more bulk in the throat tissue.
  • Soft Palate: The shape of your uvula or soft palate can cause the area between the throat and nose to narrow. As a result, the tissues bump and vibrate when you breathe, causing the airway to be partially or fully blocked.
  • Gender: While snoring can happen in anyone, men have a higher risk of snoring than women.

One of the most notable risk factors of snoring is weight gain. If there is extra tissue at the back of the throat, then it often results in snoring. Sometimes, eliminating snoring is as simple as losing weight and adding regular exercise into a person’s routine. It can be a “chicken or the egg” scenario: sleep deprivation can make it harder to lose weight, while extra weight can increase sleep deprivation.

When is Snoring More than an Annoyance?

For most people, snoring is simply an annoyance that gets in the way of sleeping at night. Often, snoring happens because of the physiological responses that are happening when the airway is blocked. This blockage can be either partial or full. But if you snore regularly and the symptoms are getting worse, then it’s possible that it might be a more serious health concern.

Here are a few signs that you might have underlying health issues in regards to snoring:

  • Not feeling rested in the morning
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Chest pain at night
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Gasping for breath while you are sleeping
  • Noticeable breathing pauses while sleeping

When one or more of these symptoms is paired with snoring, then it could be an indication of sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sometimes, snoring occurs because a person has Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that causes you to stop breathing throughout the night. If the muscles in the rear of the throat can’t keep the airway wide open, then sleep is disrupted over and over again to restart the breathing when needed. As a result, a person with OSA often has low blood oxygen levels, poor sleep habits, and only fragments of sleep during the night – making it difficult to get to the deep, restful state where REM cycles can occur.

OSA is connected with a higher risk of many other health issues including:

  • Mood swings
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Memory issues

Just because you are a snorer doesn’t mean that you have sleep apnea. But since there is a strong association between snoring and OSA, it’s smart to talk to a doctor for an official diagnosis.

Put an End to the Snoring

The advancement of medical technology has resulted in effective solutions that keep the airways open while someone is sleeping. For example, sleep apnea can be easily treated using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, often known as a CPAP machine.

Using a CPAP while you sleep means that the airway is forced to stay open, allowing you to breathe freely all night long. Many people find that their sleep is more restful and rejuvenating because they no longer wake up due to breathing issues. Plus, their family members are grateful to enjoy a peaceful sleep without the noise.

Other treatment options include lifestyle changes such as not drinking alcohol or losing weight. Or, your ENT might recommend a small oral appliance at night to hold the airways open with the right position of your jaw. In serious cases, surgery might be a recommended treatment for snoring, although surgery is usually a last resort if other treatments don’t work for you.

Professional Diagnosis: Talk to an ENT

If you snore regularly, then it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. During this appointment, the ENT will perform a physical examination to see the structure of your nasal passages and throat. Additionally, questions will be asked to learn about your symptoms and medical history. It can be helpful to have your sleeping partner present during the appointment to answer questions about how and when you snore at night.

In addition to an examination, it can also be helpful for the doctor to look at digital imaging. For example, it might be recommended that you have an x-ray or scans to see the structure of your passageways. If additional information is needed, then a sleep study can be used for an in-depth analysis of your sleeping patterns.

Good sleep can have a noticeable impact on all areas of your life, which is why you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to an ENT. If you live in Dallas or Collin County, then call Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat to schedule an appointment. We offer full-service medical care in both of our offices located in Frisco and Plano, TX. You can request an appointment online, or call our staff at (972) 596-4005.

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