If you’re ready for snoring treatments, read this blog from Anne Arundel ENT.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Staying up all night is really not that fun, and it’s even less fun when the noise is a sign of a serious health problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition in which breathing stops repeatedly for short periods of time during sleep because the muscles in the throat cannot always keep the airway open. This causes sleep fragmentation and lowers blood oxygen levels, which puts people at risk for cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease, or daytime sleepiness.
Because snorers rarely wake up on their own, their bed partner plays a vital role in making sure they get help. Therefore, it is a bad idea to leave the room or throw your partner out of bed, since then there is no one to monitor the nature of the snoring. Anne Arundel ENT can help find a treatment that works best for you.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is the result of a narrowing of the upper airway during sleep, which can be attributed to:
- Large tonsils.
- A soft palate, a long uvula, or excessive loose issue at the throat.
- Nasal problems, such as chronic congestion caused by a deviated septum.
- Obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition in which throat tissue partially or fully blocks your airway during sleep, obstructing breathing repeatedly throughout the night.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Snoring has been linked to both sedentary lifestyle and obesity, so addressing both issues can pay off. Losing weight and regular exercise will improve muscle tone, including the palate. Avoiding alcohol before bed can also help. For some, the problem is purely one of location. They only snore when they lie on their backs. If this is the case for you, you may find creative arrangements for your pillows to keep you on one side. Some even wear a special shirt with a back pocket for a tennis ball that hits them when they try to roll over.
If allergies or nasal congestion seem to cause your snoring, antihistamines or decongestants may be all you need to breathe freely and sleep comfortably. There are anti-snoring patches and sprays, but they haven’t been proven to be particularly effective.
Use Oral Devices
Dental appliances that hold the tongue and jaw in place to keep the airway open have been shown to be very effective in benign snorers, with success rates ranging from 50% to 80%. They may also be effective in OSA, although with a lower success rate (40-50%). The key is to have your dentist customize it, rather than buying an over-the-counter version or buying it off the internet.
Try Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, Or CPAP
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the mainstay of treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine consists of a mask worn over the nose and face during sleep and connected to a pump that forces air into the nasal passages and keeps the airways open. However, compliance is an issue. This treatment is only effective if you use the mask regularly, and some people find it uncomfortable or unsafe to wear a mask in front of their partner.
As a last resort, doctors may perform several surgical procedures to widen the airway. In some cases, it’s just a matter of repairing structural problems, such as a deviated septum or polypectomy. Other techniques include placing implants in the gums, encouraging scar tissue to form and reducing snoring, or removing the uvula. Both procedures have a success rate of around 50%, but the long-term benefits are unclear.
Our providers, at Anne Arundel ENT begin with an upper airway exam to identify where the airway has collapsed and to make sure there are no other medical issues causing the patient to snore. Possible sites of obstruction are the nose, tonsils, soft palate and uvula, tongue, and larynx. They may also recommend a home or laboratory sleep study. Most providers don’t ask about sleep habits on a regular basis, so it’s important to figure this out and refer to a specialist if necessary. Call us at 410-573-9191 and schedule your appointment today. We are here to help!