What is snoring?
Snoring is the sound which occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, resulting in the tissues vibrating as you breathe. Everyone snores at some point in their life; when they have nasal congestion, have consumed alcohol, are obese or sleep with their neck arched.
However if it happens repeatedly and regularly, disrupting the sleep of yourself and others in the household yourself, it can become a chronic problem or an indication of a serious health problem and needs to be treated.
What causes snoring?
Snoring happens when something partially blocks or prevents air from moving smoothly down your airway. The main cause of the partial obstruction is that the airway is too narrow.
Factors that may cause a smaller-than-normal airway include:
- Blocked nose
- Large tongue
- Slightly undershot jaw, where the tongue is closer to the back of the throat.
With the partial blockage of the airway, the soft palate and soft "flabbier" parts of the throat vibrate as someone inhales and the result is snoring.
When we’re awake, our brain tells the muscles to pull harder to compensate for the blockage. It doesn’t do that when we sleep, so the throat stays narrow. Snoring is typically worse when sleeping on your back but can happen in any body position.
The consumption of alcohol further relaxes the muscles and can amplify the situation.
What is sleep apnoea & what causes it?
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) occurs when the airway becomes completely blocked or “obstructed”. People with sleep apnoea do snore, but the deeper they breath the more obstructed the airway becomes until eventually they can’t take in air at all.
The brain wakes them up and gets them breathing again, but as they settle back to sleep they start snoring again and the cycle continues. The person doesn’t even realize it’s happening.
Who can get sleep apnoea?
OSA is extremely common, affecting at least 1 - 4% of the normal population; male, female and even children.
Probably closer to 10% of middle-aged males suffer from the condition. Every one of us probably knows at least two people with severe OSA.
How can snoring & sleep apnoea affect a person's life?
Snoring and sleep apnoea primarily disrupt the sleep of the partner/spouse and others in the household, as well as that of the sufferer (despite them being unaware of the snoring or that they stop breathing while they sleep).
People grow accustomed to walking around sleep-deprived, not knowing what’s making them that way or if someone tells them about their snoring or stopping breathing, they don’t think it makes much difference so they don't do anything about it.
Effects of lack of sleep may include:
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability and quick-temperedness
- Lack of energy
- Loss of interest in sex
- General loss of enjoyment of life
- A dry throat
- Behavioural issues (particularly with children);
- Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease due to remaining stress that sleep usually remedies
- Increased susceptibility to more prolonged flu or colds since the body requires sleep to heal
- Three-fold increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Treatments Available at Alpers
Once correctly diagnosed, both snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can be treated and the sufferer and family can return to a normal, healthy lifestyle.
Alpers Dental has a take home sleep study (the Medibyte) to begin with, this is necessary to help us determine the cause and tailor specific treatment to address it. At the end of treatment, we will repeat the sleep study and measure the improvement.
Treatment may involve:
- Losing weight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Using a CPAP machine
- Removal of tonsils and adenoids (particularly in children)
- Laser or surgical trimming of soft tissue
- Mandibular (lower jaw) advancement devices or removable plates that hold the tongue and lower jaw forward.
Children as young as four years old can be treated with removable plates (mandibular advancement appliances) to encourage natural facial growth. The treatment is quick and the results have been staggering!
One of the challenges of treating children is making sure they can tolerate and follow through with the treatment.
It might be difficult to get some children to wear the removable plate but even just a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep than they’re getting now can help improve your child’s attention, behaviour, energy and overall quality of life.