HomeHealth Topics A to ZSleep Apnea & Snoring
Health Topics

Sleep Apnea & Snoring

By DuPage Medical Group Sleep Medicine

Adult Snoring

Snoring, other than a source of social embarrassment or marital stress, can also be an indication of a serious health condition. Sleep apnea (pauses in breathing with gasping) is an increasing concern in our society and is often undiagnosed. If not treated, sleep apnea has the potential to result in heart disease, lung disease, and elevated blood pressure. An initial screening exam, known as the Epworth sleepiness scale can be a simple test to see if you are at risk for sleep apnea. To complete the test, answer how likely you are to doze off in the following situations:

0 – no chance of sleeping

1 – slight chance of sleeping

2 – moderate chance of sleeping

3 – high chance of sleeping

Situation

Chance of Sleeping

Sitting and reading

___________________

Watching TV

___________________

Sitting inactive in public place

___________________

Passenger in a car for an hour

___________________

Lying down to rest in the afternoon

___________________

Sitting and talking to someone

___________________

In a car, while stopped in traffic

___________________

A score of 9 or higher is an indication you might have sleep apnea.

At DuPage Medical Group, we have a comprehensive approach to sleep apnea that involves Otolaryngology, Pulmonary Sleep Medicine, and Oromaxillofacial departments. Treatments for sleep apnea are provided on an individual basis, and can involve surgery, oral appliances, or CPAP (a breathing assistance machine).

Pediatric Snoring

Pediatric snoring is no laughing matter. If your child displays loud snoring on a nightly basis, or has ever paused their breathing while sleeping, then they may have sleep apnea. It has been shown that children with sleep apnea can often have a more difficult time concentrating at school, or participating in fun daily activities. Often, large tonsils and adenoids are the cause of the snoring. Undergoing tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy can often alleviate the obstruction during sleep. If you are concerned about your child, talk with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists for a thorough evaluation.

Sleep Apnea Treatments:

  • snoring surgery
  • sleep apnea surgery
  • tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy
  • palatal surgery
  • UPPP
  • CPAP
  • septoplasty
  • repair deviated septum
  • turbinectomy
  • turbinate reduction
  • turbinate resection

Snoring

Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age. Snoring is an indication of obstructed breathing. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly. An otolaryngologist can help you to determine where the encumbrance may be and offer solutions for this noisy and often embarrassing behavior.

What causes snoring?

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway (see illustration) where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.

In children, snoring may be a sign of problems with the tonsils and adenoids. A chronically snoring child should be examined by an otolaryngologist, as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be required to return the child to full health.

People who snore may suffer from:

  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When muscles are too relaxed, either from alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway or the throat muscles draw in from the sides into the airway. This can also happen during deep sleep.

  • Excessive bulkiness of throat tissue. Children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore. Overweight people have bulky neck tissue, too. Cysts or tumors can also cause bulk, but they are rare.

  • Long soft palate and/or uvula. A long palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, it acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing. A long uvula makes matters even worse.

  • Obstructed nasal airways. A stuffy or blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, and pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat, and snoring results. So, snoring often occurs only during the hay fever season or with a cold or sinus infection.

  • Also, deformities of the nose or nasal septum, such as a deviated septum (a deformity of the wall that separates one nostril from the other) can cause such an obstruction.

 

Why is snoring serious?

Socially – It can make the snorer an object of ridicule and causes others sleepless nights and resentfulness.

Medically – It disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe, it can cause serious, long-term health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea.


What is obstructive sleep apnea?

When loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of totally obstructed breathing, it is known as obstructive sleep apnea. Serious episodes last more than ten seconds each and occur more than seven times per hour. Apnea patients may experience 30 to 300 such events per night. These episodes can reduce blood oxygen levels, causing the heart to pump harder.

The immediate effect of sleep apnea is that the snorer must sleep lightly and keep his muscles tense in order to keep airflow to the lungs. Because the snorer does not get a good rest, he may be sleepy during the day, which impairs job performance and makes him a hazardous driver or equipment operator. After many years with this disorder, elevated blood pressure and heart enlargement may occur.

Is there a cure for heavy snoring?

Heavy snorers, those who snore in any position or are disruptive to the family, should seek medical advice to ensure that sleep apnea is not a problem. An otolaryngologist will provide a thorough examination of the nose, mouth, throat, palate, and neck. A sleep study in a laboratory environment may be necessary to determine how serious the snoring is and what effects it has on the snorer’s health.

What treatments are available?

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. An examination will reveal if the snoring is caused by nasal allergy, infection, deformity, or tonsils and adenoids.

Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea may respond to various treatments now offered by many otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeons:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is surgery for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It tightens flabby tissues in the throat and palate, and expands air passages.

  • Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP) refers to procedures and techniques that treat snoring and some of them also are used to treat various severities of obstructive sleep apnea. Different types of TAP include bipolar cautery, laser, and radiofrequency. Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP) treats snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea by removing the obstruction in the airway. A laser is used to shrink the uvula and tighten a specified portion of the palate in a series of small procedures in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Radiofrequency ablation—some with temperature control approved by the FDA—utilizes a needle electrode to emit energy to shrink excess tissue in the upper airway including the palate and uvula (for snoring), base of the tongue (for obstructive sleep apnea), and nasal turbinates (for chronic nasal obstruction).

  • Genioglossus and hyoid advancement is a surgical procedure for the treatment of sleep apnea. It prevents collapse of the lower throat and pulls the tongue muscles forward, thereby opening the obstructed airway.

If surgery is too risky or unwanted, the patient may sleep every night with a nasal mask that delivers air pressure into the throat; this is called continuous positive airway pressure or “CPAP”.

Do you recommend the use of over-the-counter devices?

More than 300 devices are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as cures for snoring. Some are variations on the old idea of sewing a sock that holds a tennis ball on the pajama back to force the snorer to sleep on his side since snoring is often worse when a person sleeps on his back. Some devices reposition the lower jaw forward; some open nasal air passages; a few others have been designed to condition a person not to snore by producing unpleasant stimuli when snoring occurs. But, if you snore, the truth is that it is not under your control. If anti-snoring devices work, it is probably because they keep you awake.

Self-help for the light snorer

  • Adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should try the following self-help remedies:
  • Adopt a healthy and athletic lifestyle to develop good muscle tone and lose weight.
  • Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least four hours and heavy meals or snacks for three hours before retiring.
  • Establish regular sleeping patterns
  • Sleep on your side rather than your back.
  • Tilt the head of your bed upwards four inches.

 


Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep 3 or more nights each week. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow.

This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Overview

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can't detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, there are no blood tests for the condition.

Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea happens more often in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone.

Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn't send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. You make no effort to breathe for brief periods.

Central sleep apnea often occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can occur alone. Snoring doesn't typically happen with central sleep apnea.

Outlook

Untreated sleep apnea can:

  • Increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
  • Increase the risk for or worsen heart failure
  • Make irregular heartbeats more likely
  • Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and/or breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people.


Topics and Subtopics: Ear, Nose, & Throat & Sleep

Physicians & Experts

Services
Learn more about:
Sleep Medicine
Receive more health tips and DMG news right in your inbox!
Sign up for the Live Life Well newsletter