If You Snore Excessively, You Could Have Sleep Apnea

Excessively loud snoring can irritate sleepy partners, keep the household awake, and prevent the dog from getting a restful night’s sleep. Your snoring may even get loud enough to wake you at times. It can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

While not everyone who snores has OSA, it’s important to find out whether you do because of the serious medical problems it can cause — including pauses in breathing that may occur hundreds of times throughout the night.

Dr. DuMornay is a board-certified ear, nose, and throat surgeon who has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of snoring, whether it’s related to OSA or not.

He’s happy to answer questions about excessive snoring and OSA, and what he can do to help you get the sleep your body needs.

What causes OSA

OSA is a common sleep disorder caused by obstruction of your airways during sleep. This obstruction occurs as certain soft tissue structures — the tongue, uvula, and soft palate — at the back of your throat relax during sleep and essentially block your airway.

Snoring results when these tissues touch and vibrate against one another as your lungs struggle to take in oxygen.

The blockage also causes interruptions in breathing that startle you into wakefulness as your brain responds to the lack of oxygen. These pauses in breathing followed by sudden, brief awakening can occur hundreds of times throughout the night, and you probably don’t even remember them.

Other symptoms of OSA include:

  • Restless movement during sleep
  • Gasping for air
  • Daytime fatigue and irritability due to loss of sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation     

Medical conditions that are linked to OSA

Along with sleep disturbance, the sudden drops in blood oxygen levels caused by OSA may also increase your risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation
  • Insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Recurrent heart attack

Because your body uses sleep to rebuild cells and perform other important metabolic duties, lack of rest resulting from sleep apnea may also increase your risk of viral or bacterial infections. It can also impair your cognitive abilities or make it more difficult to focus on important work or school tasks.

Treatments for OSA

Depending upon the severity of your OSA, treatments may include therapies with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which uses a machine and mask to keep your airways open.

Some patients are helped by wearing a dental appliance, similar in appearance to a sports mouthguard, that you use at night to move your lower jaw forward slightly and relieve the obstruction caused by relaxed soft tissue structures.

Surgical remedies include removing enlarged tonsils or surgically tightening and rearranging redundant or excessive tissue in the throat or soft palate.

Whenever possible, however, Dr. DuMornay prefers to use a less invasive treatment option known as somnoplasty. This approach uses radiofrequency energy to shrink excessive tissue in the soft palate, tongue, and throat, which opens the space and helps prevent airway obstruction.

Somnoplasty is quick, usually lasting from 30-45 minutes. It’s done in the office under local anesthesia and requires no incisions or stitches. It can also be a very effective remedy for snoring that may not be related to sleep apnea.

If you’re having problems with excessive snoring and would like to find out about treatment options, make an appointment today with Dr. DuMornay. Call the office or click the button to book online.

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