Studies have demonstrated that in many people, snoring can cause an increase in chest pressures, which can influence blood flow in the heart and lungs. This may be the cause of some of these medical problems in people who snore.
Many people who snore have another problem known as sleep apnea. People with obstructive sleep apnea have pauses in breathing which occur when the airway collapses during sleep. After a few seconds the person briefly awakens, frequently producing a grunting, gasping, or snorting sound. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in obese people and more common in men, but it is not just obesity that can cause this problem. People with a small jaw, large tongue, or large tonsils are at higher risk of having this problem as well. In fact, any condition which can narrow the opening in the back of the throat or possibly the nasal passages can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Some of the more common problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness, and increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.
What can be done if a person snores or has Sleep Apnea?
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is called nasal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). An individual wears a mask on their nose at night that administers air pressure, keeping the upper airway open. This allows the individual to breathe throughout the night without repetitive awakenings. If a person only snores and does not suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, then CPAP is not the appropriate treatment.
Dental appliances have been used for snoring. Sometimes these devices can also prevent apnea as well. Studies have demonstrated that dental appliances work for snoring and sleep apnea, but not in all patients. Surgery has been used to treat these problems. The most frequently performed surgery is a procedure where the soft tissue in the back of the throat including the uvula is cut away or reduced in size with a new microwave needle or a laser. Although this may work well for snoring, unfortunately most patients who have sleep apnea are not adequately treated with these procedures. There are other more extensive surgeries that can be performed for sleep apnea. A sleep specialist who is very familiar with these procedures should explain them to you. If you snore at night and think you might have sleep apnea, contact your doctor.
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