While snoring may be a common, harmless condition and a minor nuisance, it can get worse with age, particularly in men and overweight individuals. Severe cases of snoring can disrupt sleeping patterns and consequently impair sleep quality.
The primary cause of snoring is blocked airways in the mouth and nose. Obstructions to nasal airways can be caused by allergies, deviated septums or colds. Large tonsils and excessive throat tissue, particularly in overweight individuals, are also causes of habitual snoring.
Treatments for snoring largely depend on what caused the snoring in the first place. Once the causes are known, Dr. Hidlay will prescribe the necessary treatments.
Persistent snoring can be a symptom in itself, and can indicate that the individual is at risk of a more serious health condition such as sleep apnea, which can affect anyone regardless of age. Sleep apnea occurs when a patient frequently stops breathing during sleep for long periods of time, resulting in a lack of oxygen flowing to his or her brain. In obstructive sleep apnea, soft tissues in your throat collapse while you sleep and consequently blocks airflow. In central sleep apnea, your breathing muscles fail to control your respiration because the brain doesn’t send the signals that tell your muscles to help you continue to breathe. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure, and exacerbate diabetes.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive snoring, restlessness while sleeping, headaches in the morning, insomnia, or waking up gasping or out of breath. In diagnosing sleep apnea, patients undergo a polysonogram, which collectively studies brain wave activity, muscle activity, heart rates and rhythms while you are sleeping.
Treatments for mild sleep apnea incorporates behavioral changes that facilitate breathing, such as changing sleep positions, quitting smoking which can worsen apnea, and losing weight. For more serious apnea, patients can be prescribed continuous positive airway pressure, in which a machine provides a consistent flow of air through a patient’s nostrils via a mask worn over the nose. At our practice, we also provide dental devices for patients suffering from sleep apnea that keep the airways open while they are asleep.