Snoring is common, affecting about 90 million American adults. It’s the source of many light-hearted jokes, but it may be more serious. Snoring can not only greatly disrupt your spouse’s sleep, but also your own. In fact, about one half of people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders — and potentially a significant risk to your health if left unchecked over time.
Stay Alert to Sleep Apnea
Snoring sounds come from vibrations in the walls of your throat, caused when the muscles of your throat relax, your tongue falls backward and your throat narrows. Sometimes the walls of the throat collapse so much that soft tissue at the back of the throat closes the airway. Breathing pauses momentarily many times an hour, leading to disruptions in deep sleep patterns that result in chronic daytime fatigue in its early stages. Sleep apnea is not an emergency and you won’t stop breathing entirely (unlike opioid overdoses which can shut down respiratory drive causing respiratory failure and death).
Sleep Apnea Symptoms:
- Snoring loud enough to disrupt your sleep or that of others
- Awakening abruptly with a snorting or choking sound, or gasping for air
- Waking up with a dry mouth, sore throat or headache
- Feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering or staying awake
If you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Left untreated over time, sleep apnea can increase your risk of heart disease, strokes, car accidents and other serious health concerns. Your doctor may refer you for a painless, overnight sleep study to diagnose your condition and determine next steps.
For mild cases of sleep apnea, it may only take a few lifestyle adjustments — such as losing weight, quitting smoking or treating allergies. For moderate to severe sleep apnea treatment, your doctor may recommend a device to help open the blocked airway while you sleep (oral night splint). However, if your symptoms are chronic and significant enough, a sleep study may be needed. The most common and reliable method for treating sleep apnea is called “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure” or CPAPmachine. This machine delivers air pressure through a mask over your nose, keeping your upper airway passages open and preventing apnea and snoring. A variety of masks and airway pressure devices is available to meet your needs and offer a comfortable fit.