Snoring is common in adults and is not necessarily a sign of an underlying disorder.
Sometimes, however, snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you have periods when you are not breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep. The episode is followed by a sudden snort or gasp when breathing resumes. If you have sleep apnea, this cycle generally happens several times a night. Sleep apnea is not as common as snoring.
A doctor (or a sleep specialist) can tell if you have sleep apnea by doing a sleep study.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person has recurrent episodes of paused or stopped breathing during sleep.
Normally, the muscles of the upper part of the throat help keep the airway open and allow air to flow into the lungs. Even though these muscles usually relax during sleep, the upper throat remains open enough to let air pass by.
However, some people have a narrow throat area and, during sleep, relaxation of the muscles causes the passage to completely close. This prevents air from getting into the lungs. Loud snoring and labored breathing occur. During deep sleep, breathing can stop for a short period of time (often more than 10 seconds). This is called apnea.
An apnea episode is followed by a sudden attempt to breathe, and a change to a lighter stage of sleep. The result is fragmented sleep that is not restful, leading to excessive daytime drowsiness.
Obesity is a condition that puts patients at higher risk, although as many as 40% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are not obese.
The following factors may also increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea:
It is important to emphasize that, often, the person who has obstructive sleep apnea does not remember the episodes of apnea during the night. The main symptoms are usually associated with excessive daytime sleepiness due to poor sleep during the night. Often, family members, especially spouses, witness the periods of no breathing.
A person with obstructive sleep apnea usually snores heavily soon after falling asleep. The snoring continues at a regular pace for a period of time, often becoming louder, but is then interrupted by a long silent period during which there is no breathing. This is followed by a loud snort and gasp, and the snoring returns. This pattern repeats frequently throughout the night.
Symptoms that may be observed include:
Our medical staff will perform a physical exam. This will involve carefully checking your mouth, neck, and throat. You will be asked about your medical history. Often, a survey that asks a series of questions about daytime sleepiness, sleep quality, and bedtime habits is given.
A sleep study (polysomnogram) is used to confirm obstructive sleep apnea.
Dr. Weiss may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP is the first-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Surgery may be an option in some cases. This may involve: