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Snoring

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Definition

Snoring is a loud and harsh noise that is produced during sleep due to vibration of the tissues of the airways in the throat and nose when the air flows through it during breathing.

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Causes

  • The muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relaxes as you drift into deep sleep. These tissues may partially obstruct or narrow your airways, causing a vibrating, harsh sound. As the narrowing progressively increases, the airflow through them becomes more forceful and the noise produced grows louder.

  • Narrowing of the airways can be caused by low or thick soft palate, enlarged tonsils, adenoids, elongated uvula which is the elongated triangular piece of soft tissue hanging from the soft palate.

  • Being overweight contributes to narrowing of your throat tissues.

  • Consuming too much alcohol as it acts like a sedative and relaxes the throat muscles.

  • Chronic nasal congestion or a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum).

  • Sleep apnea which is a rather serious condition in which there is excessive sagging of throat tissues causing the airways to collapse and narrow or close, preventing you from breathing.

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Implications

Habitual snoring can be a nuisance. Snoring due to sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness as the episodes of hypoxia during sleep wake you up periodically and the sleep pattern gets disturbed. Untreated, persistent snoring may raise your risk of developing such health problems as diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart failure and stroke.

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What You Can Do

  • Lifestyle Changes
    • Being overweight is the most common cause of snoring. Throat tissues that are enlarged and flabby are more likely to vibrate and produce a harsh noise as you breathe. Losing weight can be very helpful to combat this problem.

    • Sleep on your side as laying on you back allows your tongue to fall backward into your throat, narrowing your air passages and partially obstructing airflow.

    • Nasal congestion caused by allergies or the partition between your nostrils being crooked (deviated septum) can narrow your airways and limit airflow through them. This narrowing of the airways forces you to breathe through your mouth, increasing the chances of snoring. Use Nasal Dilator strips ( Breathe-rite strips) which are adhesive strips that can be applied to your nose. These strips may widen the nasal passages and help reduce nasal obstruction due to congestion.

    • Avoid excessive use of alcohol and sedatives like sleeping pills. These substances act on your central nervous system causing excessive relaxation of you throat muscles and tissues.
  • Surgery
    • Palatoplasty - In this procedure, the surgeon tightens and stiffens the palate muscles under general anesthesia. This procedure is quite beneficial as it reduces the intensity of snoring.

    • Laser surgery - This is an outpatient procedure and is also called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). This procedure is performed by an ENT specialist. The doctor uses a small hand-held laser beam to remove the excess tissue to shorten the soft palate and remove the uvula. Removal of excess tissue enlarges the airways, thus reducing the vibration of the tissues and the noise produced. Each treatment last about 30 minutes and 2-5 treatment sessions may be needed depending on the severity of the problem.

    • Surgical correction of deviated nasal septum.

    • Radiofrequency tissue volume reduction or somnoplasty - This is an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia. In this type of surgery, the doctor uses a low-intensity radiofrequency signal to remove part of the soft palate to reduce snoring. The tissue removal causes slight scarring of the soft palate, which may help to reduce snoring.

    • Dental devices - These are firm-fitting mouthpieces that prevent the tongue and soft palate to fall backwards and helps to keep your air passage open.

    • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) - In this approach, a pressurized mask is worn over your nose while you sleep. This mask is attached to a small pump that forces air through your airway to keep it from collapsing.

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Snoring