Published December 19, 2010
You probably know at least one person who snores. It could be your partner, parents, grandparents, or even Uncle Ned or Aunt Sophie that snore at various noise levels.
Some laugh and make jokes about it, but it can be a symptom of a serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). And if it is obstructive sleep apnea, then it is no laughing matter; that individual needs to get evaluated by a sleep specialist and learn to stop snoring. For the rest of us, the problem is a lot less serious and there are several measures you can take to stop snoring today.
What is snoring?
Snoring is a noise produced when an individual breathes (usually produced when inhaling) during sleep, which in turn causes vibration of the soft palate and uvula (that thing that hangs down in the back of the throat).
The word "apnea" means the absence of breathing. Unfortunately, men are hit with more bouts of disruptive snoring than women. Sorry guys, but even if you don't think you snore, you probably do. At least there are treatments that can help you stop snoring.
Treatment for snoring
The most important point to make about the treatment of OSA is that effective treatment requires several related problems to be treated simultaneously.
At least the following need to be addressed if you wish to stop snoring:
The impression is growing that, to a large extent, many cases of OSA and snoring may be related to Western culture. The risk of significant OSA increases with the numerous factors described below, many of which are problems currently rampant in our society. Correction of OSA generally requires that these factors be eliminated. At times, elimination of these factors completely resolves the problem.
Excessive weight brought about by a sedentary lifestyle, too many rich foods or by medically related situations such as thyroid problems, is probably the leading factor contributing to OSA. Bed partners almost invariably make the observation that the larger their snoring spouse becomes, the louder the snoring bellows, and the more often they hear snoring pauses followed by snorts, and a resumption of breathing (i.e., apneas — episodes of obstructed breathing).
Conversely, in a large percentage of patients, weight loss down to an ideal weight has reversed the process.
Smoking has numerous undesirable effects on the body. Most pertinent to OSA are the obstructions to the airway that cigarette smoking causes: swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose, swelling of the tissue in the throat, and blockage of the small vessels in the lungs. Therefore, add snoring to the list of reasons why you should stop smoking.
It is the partial collapse of the airway (breathing tube between nose, mouth and lungs) that is the immediate cause of snoring, and its complete collapse that is the immediate cause of apnea. Alcohol causes too great a relaxation of the airway during sleep. This, and other effects of alcohol on the body, means that it can either cause or greatly contribute to the development of loud snoring and apnea._________________________________________________________________________
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Organization of sleep
There are two periods of sleep that, given the right circumstances, are especially vulnerable to the development of unstable breathing. These are Stage 1 sleep, which should only occur when a person is first falling asleep but can occur many times during the night if sleep is poor, and REM sleep, which is the time when dreaming most frequently occurs.
If a person has very unbalanced sleeping habits, it can result in the development of very significant respiratory instability during sleep. It's that simple: unstable sleeping patterns lead to unstable breathing. Therefore, all you need to do is regulate your sleep by getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night. Sometimes, this is all that is required.
Anything that can lead to a blockage of the nose, throat or lungs potentially plays a role in the development of OSA.
Pertinent nasal problems include allergies to airborne particles, such as animal dander, and dryness of the nose because of a wood-burning stove. Factors that can block the throat include large tonsils, large adenoids, excessive amounts of fatty tissue, and, at times, the enlargement of some of the complex tissue at the back of the throat. In these cases, surgery can help by removing unwanted or excess tissue.
Snoring can also be a symptom of diabetes or hypothyroidism. Therefore, sometimes the best treatment for snoring and apnea is to go to the source of the problem and treat the medical problem itself.
Lifestyle before surgery
On a final note, if you are an excessive snorer, and constantly get complaints from friends and loved ones, look at your lifestyle very carefully first. Try changing some bad habits to good ones, and exercise more.
If after all this, you still snore excessively, then we suggest you go see a physician or a nose, ear and throat specialist. Always make surgery your last resort. Even though it's proven to be safe, surgery can still do damage to your wallet, when all you needed to do was quit smoking or join a gym.