Sleep Apnea & Snoring
Most people who snore worry about their partners or roommates. They stress about keeping people up at night or waking them up from sleep, but they rarely worry about themselves.
While your snoring can be annoying to anyone who has to share a room with you, it can also be a symptom of a more serious health condition, and has been linked to dangers like heart disease.
Why We Snore
Those loud awful noises you make while you sleep can be attributed to a variety of issues, but they all have something to do with obstruction of airways. Most of the time this occurs because muscles in the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat relax and partially block the flow of air.
“If you blow air through a floppy tube, it’s going to vibrate and make noise,” explains Michael Grandner, PhD, professor of psychiatry and a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “And at night, for a lot of people, your airways become floppy tubes.”
If you sleep on your back instead of your sides, you’re more likely to snore. You’re also more likely to snore if you’ve had alcohol before bed, because alcohol relaxes muscles. Most people snore when they are suffering from nasal congestion from allergies or a cold. “Most of the time, we can still get enough air to keep things functioning normally,” says Grandner.
Other triggers are not so easily fixed, and may lead to sleep apnea, a condition in which the heart isn’t able to get enough oxygen to function properly. Other causes of snoring include:
- Enlarged uvula (ball of tissue hanging in the back of your mouth)
- Having a large tongue
- Being overweight (especially for men)
When to worry about your snoring
According to Grandner between 5% and 15% of middle-aged adults probably suffer from sleep apnea, but it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. This is dangerous, because studies have shown strong associations between sleep apnea, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions.
“A lot of people think sleep apnea will cause them to suffocate, but it won’t,” says Grandner. “You’re still getting enough air to breathe – and if not, your brain will wake you up.” According to Grandner the bigger risk is the long-term damage it can do. While Grandner worries about long-term effects, you should note that according to the Mayo Clinic, those with heart disease can experience sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
If you’re partner notices that you stop breathing for periods of time during your sleep, that is a clear indication of sleep apnea and you should see a doctor. Another important sign is the volume of your snoring, “if you can hear it pretty clearly through a closed door, that’s a sign that your body is probably working too hard to get sufficient oxygen,” says Grandner.
If you sleep alone, you can look out for other symptoms to diagnose sleep apnea. If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness you should see a doctor, “If you can stop whatever you are doing, just about any place and any time of day, and sit down and immediately fall asleep, that’s a problem,” says Grandner.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, sleep apnea is very easy to diagnose and easy to treat. Losing weight and not sleeping on your back can help some patients. If not, a device called a continuous positive-air pressure, or CPAP, machine can help by sending air through a tube and a mask into a patient’s nose and mouth while they sleep. This keeps the airways open and allows you to breath normally while you sleep.
“It may take a few weeks of getting used to, but once they get over that hurdle most patients say it literally changes their life,” says Grandner. “It gives them more energy during the day, so a lot of them are finally able to exercise, eat better, and really get healthier overall.”
At Dayton Dandes Medical Center we work with you to help you reach optimal health. We provide a variety of integrative therapies that combine conventional and holistic medicine to best treat your health issues. Get a better night sleep and achieve better health by visiting us. Schedule your appointment now.