Many people snore but only some snorers have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Studies have shown that approximately 24% of the local population are loud habitual snorers.
OSA is a potentially serious disorder associated with snoring, in which one’s breathing is interrupted during sleep resulting in a drop in oxygen levels in the body. This causes the individual to awaken many times during the night and experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
Snoring is caused by the vibration of tissues lining the upper air passages. Snoring in most people is due to multiple factors, each playing some part in the snoring process.
Relaxation of muscles causes the walls of the upper airway to fall together and narrow, causing them to vibrate. The tongue may fall back into the throat when sleeping on the back and contribute to snoring. Nasal blockages due to conditions such as nasal allergies or deformities of the nasal septum (the cartilage partition between the two sides of the nose) can cause poor nasal airflow and mouth breathing, making the situation worse.
A deviated nasal septum, turbinate hypertrophy, large adenoids and tonsils, nasal polyps, long soft palate and a bulky tongue can narrowthe airway.
Other factors which can influence the snoring condition are obesity, ageing and associated loss of general muscle tone, congestion of the throat due to reflux of stomach acid (heartburn), and the effects of alcohol and smoking.
Consult your physician if you have loud snoring. Your physician may then refer you to a Sleep Disorders Centre for a thorough evaluation of your problem.
Effective treatment is available for almost all patients. The treatment of snoring is divided into medical and surgical options. The therapeutic choice is individualised. A "staged" approach is often used, which involves medical therapy first, followed by consideration of surgery.
As nasal obstruction increases the frequency of snoring and sleep-disordered breathing, oral medications prescribed or recommended by your physician are available to help you breathe through your nose during sleep.
Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) can supply pressurised air into the upper airway via a nasal mask, keeping the upper airway open. CPAP is not usually prescribed for snoring unless there is associated apnoea.
Dental appliances that hold the jaw in a forward protrusive position during sleep have also been used to treat snoring.
Surgical procedures for the treatment of snoring may include nasal, palate, jaw, tongue or neck surgery depending on the location of the tissues contributing to the snoring.
Certain nasal conditions can cause snoring and require assessment by a ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon. Some snorers have excessive tissue such as large tonsils, long palate and bulky tongue. Removal of such excessive tissues will help alleviate snoring. Radiofrequency thermal ablation of the soft palate and tongue (somnoplasty) is also used to treat snoring. It stiffens and shrinks the tissues of the soft palate and tongue base.
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