ZZZZZing All Night Long

Snoring Can Indicate a Serious Condition

If you snore, it’s likely you are familiar with the nightly jabs in the ribs, grumbling from your bed partner, and maybe even separate bedrooms. Snoring happens when air cannot flow freely through the passage in your throat. As you probably know, the resulting rasps and rattles and disrupt the sleep of those around you. What you may not know, however, is that snoring can disrupt your own sleep and may be a sign of a serious condition called sleep apnea.

Signs and Signals

When a person has sleep apnea, the throat becomes blocked at night, stopping breathing for short periods of time. If you have sleep apnea, your partner may hear you alternate between snoring very loudly and being very quiet. You may not even gasp or snort in your sleep. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include

  • Waking up tired, even after a full night’s sleep,
  • Waking up with a headache,
  • Feeling very sleepy or falling asleep at inappropriate times (for instance, at work or while driving),
  • Irritability and short temperedness,
  • Problems with concentration or memory.

Nose problems make things worse and may even cause snoring or sleep apnea. If the dividing wall in your nose is crooked (a deviated septum) or if you have allergies or polyps, the airflow can be blocked and contribute to the obstruction.

Not only can sleep apnea leave you constantly tired, but it is also associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Your physician can help. Snoring and sleep apnea rarely go away on their own, but they are treatable. Your physician can evaluate you and recommend a treatment plan to help you sleep quietly and breathe freely. This plan may include changes that you make yourself, medical devices, or surgery that your physician prescribes.

Every Breath You Take

Breathing often seems like the easiest thing in the world. Most of the time, you don’t even think about it. However, if you have ever had a stuffy nose, you know the feeling of breathing through a very narrow passageway.

This constriction is what happens in your throat when you snore. While you sleep, structures in your throat partially block your air passage, making it narrow and hard to breathe through. If the entire passage becomes blocked and you can not breathe at all, you have sleep apnea.

When you breathe in, air passes through your nose and throat on its way to your lungs. Your nose warms, filters, and humidifies the air that goes to your lungs. The air travels past soft, flexible structures in the throat, such as the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, and tongue. The soft palate is the tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth. It helps block off your nose when you swallow. The uvula is the long flap of tissue that hangs from the soft palate. Tonsils are the balls of tissue that rest in the sides of your throat. The tongue helps you swallow, talk, and chew.

Simple Solutions

Whether or not your have sleep apnea, your snoring may get better by making a few simple changes in your sleeping habits. These changes may be all that is necessary to improve or even cure your snoring or sleep apnea. Some of these changes include

  • Not sleeping on your back (sleep on either side instead),
  • Avoiding alcohol and certain medication that may cause sedation,
  • Losing weight,
  • Exercising regularly, and
  • Unblocking your nose with either medicine or surgery.

Nose problems make things word and may even cause snoring or sleep apnea. If the dividing wall in your nose is crooked (a deviated septum) or if you have allergies or polyps, the airflow can be blocked and contribute to the obstruction.

So if snoring is a problem in your house, you should check with your physician. He or she may be able to help or refer you to a specialist to diagnose why you snore or if you have possibly have sleep apnea. Until then, have a good night’s sleep!

*This article first appeared in Vol. 2, Issue 6 of Highland Clinic Today