By Dr Shweta Saraf Gargiya , Pulmonology
Did you know that about 45 percent of normal adults tend to snore once in a while and about 25 percent snore regularly? Men are more susceptible to snoring, and the problem worsens with age. It could be a symbol of obstruction in breathing, and one should not afford to take it lightly. Pulmonary experts, particularly otolaryngologists, can help in understanding whether or not you have any problem with the anatomic structure of the lungs and breathing tracts and offer solutions for this embarrassing problem.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is a common sleep disorder. If you have OSA, it means that your airways collapses part or all of the way while you are sleeping. The muscles of the upper airway relax when you fall asleep. If you sleep on your back, gravity can cause the tongue to fall back. This narrows the airway and can reduce the amount of air getting into the lungs. A narrowed airway causes snoring by making tissue in the back of the throat vibrate. An apnea is when the airway is completely closed, and so breathing temporarily stops.
The airway can collapse repeatedly during the night. Air can’t get to your lungs, resulting in a lack of oxygen. You wake up, so you can start breathing again.
Signs of OSA include:
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Choking or gasping while you sleep
- Morning headaches
- Daytime sleepiness
- Trouble concentrating
What could be the possible cause of snoring?
Snoring could be a sign of a severe condition which is medically termed as ‘obstructive sleep apnea’ or OSA. It is characterized by spans where the breathing pauses for more than 10 seconds at a stretch owing to collapse or narrowing of the upper airway. This, in turn, results in lowering the level of oxygen in the blood which compels the heart to strain itself. It also leads to disruption of the natural sleep cycle which makes individuals feel fatigued even after resting for an adequate stretch of time. An individual may experience between 30 and 300 sessions of apnea in a single night.
The immediate solution of sleep apnea is that the affected individual should sleep lightly and must try to keep the muscles in the throat tense to allow proper airflow in the lungs. As he may not get the right amount of rest, this could result in lowering the performance. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can multiply the risk of having cardiac arrests, diabetes, stroke and a host of other problems.
Who is at the Risk?
- Male with neck size of 17 inches or more
- Female with neck size of 16 inches of more
- Male over the age of 40
- Female over the age of 50
Not all people with OSA have these risk factors. Children can have OSA as a result of large tonsils or narrow airways.
Why is it important to seek medical advice?
If you are a heavy snorer, you should seek medical attention without further delay to make sure that you are not suffering from sleep apnea. It is important to note here that those people who have a habit of snoring despite altering the sleeping positions and affect the partner’s sleep negatively are considered heavy snorers. The doctor would perform a thorough examination of the nose, throat, mouth, and neck by using a fiberoptic scope. It would help in understanding whether the snoring is caused by any allergic infection or nasal obstruction or tonsils or adenoids. A sleep study may also be needful to determine whether snoring is triggered by sleep apnea.
What treatments are available for sleep apnea and snoring?
- Positive Airways Pressure Therapy(PAP). PAP therapy can prevent or reduce the serious health consequences of OSA. PAP therapy helps people with all levels of OSA, from mild to severe. It is the most common therapy for OSA. Positive airway pressure reduces the number of respiratory events that occur as you sleep, reduces daytime sleepiness and improves your quality of life.
- Mouthpiece (oral device). Though positive airway pressure is often an effective treatment, oral appliances are an alternative for some people with mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. These devices may reduce your sleepiness and improve your quality of life.
PAP is usually the first form of treatment for OSA. There are other treatments for OSA. You can talk to your health care provider about which treatment is right for you.