Snoring & Sleep Apnea

 

Have you ever woken up exhausted from the night before, but unsure why?  Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing during periods of sleep, which usually occurs because of a blockage in the airway.  The relaxed muscles at the back of the throat cause the throat to close, which stops breathing, typically from 20 seconds to up to 3 minutes.  Most sleep apnea sufferers experience this cycle of snoring, apnea and awakening five or more times a night.  This condition has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart disease, making it very important to understand if you have sleep apnea and how to treat it.

A sleep study can help characterize and determine the severity of snoring and sleep apnea.  Sleep testing is traditionally performed in an overnight laboratory with a test called a polysomnogram (PSG). We now also offer a home sleep testing option. 

Some simple techniques for alleviating mild apnea are to sleep on your sides and not your back.  Avoid alcohol or sedatives before bedtime. In mild cases, treatment may also consist of nasal decongestants, inhaled steroid preparations or oral appliance devices that force the jaw forward to prevent the tongue from falling back and constricting the throat during sleep.  

In some cases, a CPAP may be indicated. A CPAP mask is worn at night and is connected to a machine that delivers positive pressure into the airway.  A detailed physical examination which may consist of a nasal endoscopy will reveal if anatomic obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum or enlarged tonsils and adenoids cause your snoring.  Depending on the cause of sleep apnea and the severity, obstructive sleep apnea may be alleviated with surgical treatments such as:

  • Septoplasty and inferior turbinate reduction - A procedure to straighten the nasal septum and reduce the size of the nasal turbinates, allowing increased airflow through the nasal passages. 

  • Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy - Enlarged tonsils or adenoids (lymphoid tissue in the back of the nose) can be a source of airway obstruction, and can be removed surgically to increase airway patency. 

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – It tightens collapsible tissues in the throat and palate, expanding air passages.  

For those who suffer from debilitating snoring or think they may have sleep apnea, contact your ENT and schedule an appointment for proper diagnosis.  Snoring and sleep apnea are not something to ignore, and early treatment is important in protecting your health in the long run.