Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Why is my partner making noise when he sleeps?
Most likely they are snoring. Snoring is the sound that occurs during sleep when the flow of air is obstructed in the area where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Everyone has this happen at some point in their lives, but it can become a concern if it gets worse or they stop breathing.
What are the common causes of snoring?
Snoring can be a result of allergies, a cold, being overweight, alcohol, or an anatomical reason in your mouth or sinuses.
When someone has allergies or a cold, the tissue in the throat becomes swollen, resulting in a smaller area for the air to pass through. Infected tonsils and adenoids, blocked nasal passages or a deviated septum can also narrow the airway and lead to snoring
People who are overweight often have extra tissue in the back of their throats that may also make a smaller area for air to pass through.
Use of alcohol can cause the muscles in the back of the throat to relax.
Some people may have a long soft palate, or large tonsils or adenoids, which can narrow the airway and cause snoring (Mayo Clinic, 2017). So when people sleep on their backs, it is more common for them to snore due to the fact that the tongue slides back in the throat, decreasing the amount of space for air to pass.
Why does it seem that my partner gasps or stops breathing in their sleep?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe (National Sleep Foundation, 2019). Gasping or pauses in breathing for more than 20 seconds during sleep is usually associated with sleep apnea. Most sleep apnea sufferers experience this cycle of snoring, apnea, and awakening five or more times a night which can result in excessive sleepiness during the day. This sleepiness can slow your reaction time as well as it can lead to confused thinking and memory loss. Other complications of sleep apnea can be high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, anxiety, and depression.
How do I know if I have obstructive sleep apnea?
You can make an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician. During the visit, they will ask you questions about your daily activities and sleep habits. You can keep a log of sleep cycles until your visit. They will perform an exam of your ears, nose, and throat to see how your anatomy looks. The physician may order imaging studies to see if any surgical intervention might be needed. Then they will most likely have you schedule a sleep study at home or at a sleep center. The sleep test monitors 16 different body functions while you sleep and can help identify the exact cause and severity of the sleep apnea.
What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?
Once the physician has the information from the sleep study, a plan can be made. This might include non-surgical options such as a weight loss plan, or a referral will be given to see a pulmonologist to discuss using either an oral appliance or a continuous positive pressure machine which blows air into the mouth resulting in you taking breaths while sleeping. If you are a surgical candidate, there are a few different procedures to open the upper airway which can be discussed. If you have severe sinus disease or a deviated septum, these procedures can also be discussed to see if there is an improvement.
If you suffer from debilitating snoring or think you may have sleep apnea, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Snoring. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/snoring/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377701
National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Excessive sleepiness with OSA. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/es-osa