About 90 million Americans experience snoring and many consider the issue only a nuisance. However, snoring may be more than an irritation–it could be a sign of a common sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
Is it Snoring or Sleep Apnea?
Exactly what is sleep apnea and how is it different from snoring? Although sleep apnea often includes snoring, the loud symptom does not necessarily mean you have a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep resulting in dangerous health effects.
Sleep apnea, which includes three common subtypes, is the second most common of all sleep disorders. About 85 percent of sufferers have obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Smaller percentages of cases have central sleep apnea (CSA) or a combination of these types.
Causes and Symptoms
What causes snoring? The reasons vary depending on the type of snoring. OSA is the most common type to include snoring. Airflow to the lungs is blocked in obstructive cases possibly due to muscles that are too relaxed during sleep. Other possibilities could be inflamed tonsils, the shape of the neck, nose or jaw, or the weight of your neck. A snoring sound occurs when relaxed throat tissue vibrates.
Symptoms of OSA and CSA overlap. Snoring is the most obvious sign, especially if it is loud. Episodes of stopped breathing is another sign of sleep apnea. Other night issues include night sweats, restlessness during sleep, and waking up gasping or choking.
Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth also indicates a sleep disorder. Other signs during waking hours include a morning headache, excessive sleepiness, fatigue, trouble getting up, and forgetfulness.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Men are more at risk of developing OSA sleep apnea but women and children are susceptible as well. Certain factors increase the risk including weight. Obese people are four times more likely to develop sleep apnea than others, which may be due to fat deposits around the upper airway.
Other risk factors include a thicker neck, a narrowed airway, nasal congestion, and a larger-than-average tongue. Being older and having a family history of the disorder are also risk factors. Smoking and heavy use of alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers may also increase your risk.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Often before a treatment plan is recommended, medical professionals will recommend a polysomnogram, or sleep study, to see what is happening during your sleep. Another test option is pulse oximetry which measures your oxygen saturation. At HollowBrook Sleep we offer 3D Cone Beam Technology, which incorporates clear-cut anatomical views and measurements to help evaluate your airway.
Mild cases of sleep apnea may only require lifestyle changes. Moderate to severe cases usually require medical devices such as a CPAP machine. Known as a continuous positive airway pressure device, CPAP machines deliver a fixed stream of pressurized air. With this device, patients wear CPAP masks that are connected by a tube to the machine.
Another option is a BiPap machine, which delivers both inhale and exhale pressure. A third alternative is an APAP machine, a device that automatically adjusts its air pressure levels depending on the patient’s breathing. Other snoring aids include chin straps, special pillows, and dental appliances.
Untreated sleep apnea can cause health problems, including diabetes, acid reflux, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Contact HollowBrook Sleep today to begin your journey to better breathing and a restful night’s sleep.