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Snoring - A Frustrating Condition

It is estimated that 35-50% of the population in this country snore, and it is not gender specific. Both men and women snore, yet men seem to be the more prevalent of the two. Older people seem to be at the higher level of offenders, but once again it happens at all ages.

Snoring in and of itself is not a major medical issue or concern in most cases. However, if you ask the partner/roommate of a snorer you will find out real quick how big a problem it can be and how much it can affect your relationship. Partners that cannot get to sleep or stay asleep because their bedmates are sawing logs will not be happy campers in the morning.

Snoring can have a medical basis as well, called sleep apnea. The latest research estimates that over 10% of adults have it and many more go undiagnosed. Apnea can be caused by a blockage of the airway, which is usually temporary. The airway can be partially blocked which results in shallow breathing, or the tongue can fall backwards with the mouth and obstruct the airway in total. In both instances two things occur, one your oxygen levels will fall in your blood and that causes your carbon dioxide levels to rise. It is the struggling for air, which creates the gasping, snorting and whistling sounds that drive your bedmates crazy. The muscles in your throat actually contract and the shortness of breath wakes you up. Then you start the process all over once you fall back to sleep.

People with forms of sleep apnea might be more irritable, cranky, and spacey, can't concentrate during the day, have headaches and feel lethargic. There are several conditions linked to sleep apnea: excessive weight, age, allergies, deviated septum, drinking alcohol, and head and body sleeping positions. Chronic long-standing cases of apnea have been linked to cardiovascular problems, hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, as well as type two diabetes, and chronic inflammation, which is associated with heart disease. The breath stopping for short periods of time can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure, which over time may become chronic.

So what can you do about it?

  • If you are overweight, losing some excess pounds can reduce pressure on the diaphragm.
  • Reduce consumption of alcoholic beverages at night.
  • Don't eat a big meal late in the evening.
  • If you can sleep on your side, that is the best position. You can try and elevate the head but I suggest raising the whole upper torso not just the neck as it can create a constriction of the airway and that's what we are trying to avoid.
  • You can go to the drug store and buy those nose strips that help open the nasal passages. You see football payers wearing them while playing to increase oxygen intake.
  • Acupuncture works wonders in a lot of cases and can help fix the problem as well as some Chinese helps in conjunction with the acupuncture.
  • There is an FDA-approved device called ''Apnea risk evaluation system.'' It is by prescription only and costs several hundred dollars. It attaches to your forehead while you sleep and monitors your pulse, blood oxygen levels, and head positions. It doesn't do any treatment and is only diagnostic. The info is then interpreted by the company and suggestions made.
  • The other options are to visit an ENT, (Ears, Nose & Throat) doctor and consider having your uvula removed which does in most cases help or stop the problem. The uvular is the little flap of skin that hangs down in the back of the throat; it is sometimes too big and creates problems.
  • You can visit a sleep center and have them evaluate you. This may entail spending one of more nights there as they monitor your sleep patterns. New procedures, such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and The Pillar procedure, are are shown to help, and the latest research so far no long-term results of effectiveness have been established.

Dr. Donna Watson