Why do we Snore?
Apparently 25% all of us snore from time to time. For some, snoring is no more than an occasional, inconvenient habit, but chronic, heavy, loud snoring can be more serious. Snoring usually occurs when you naturally relax during sleep, (often occurring to those who lie on their back) when your lower jaw and tongue to drop back against the back of the throat. This forces the airway to narrow and constrict, which lowers the amount of oxygen your body can take in. Your body reacts to this by increasing your respiration, or breathing. This increased velocity of air causes the soft tissues at the back of the throat to vibrate, creating the snoring noise. While annoying to others, simple snoring is harmless, it may cause dry mouth or a sore throat, but heavy snoring is often a symptom of a serious medical condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. Sleep Apnoea is frequently associated with hypertension stroke and other cardiopulmonary problems
What is Sleep Apnoea?
This term refers to the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep. This is due to the relaxation of the muscles surrounding the larynx during sleep, causing them to collapse. This condition is often known as obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA. Every time breathing is blocked, oxygen in the bloodstream falls, and the heart must work harder to circulate blood. Blood pressure rises and the heart may beat Irregularly or even stop. When the brain senses the decrease of oxygen, it partially arouses the sleeper usually just enough to gasp for air. This arousal is usually not enough to wake the sleeper, but the sleep partner may notice the sleeper choking or gasping for air during sleep.
Should you seek advice?
Have you been told, or do you awake and find that you are choking or gasping for air during sleep? Do you feel tired during the day, even though you got a full night's sleep? Do you wake frequently with headaches? Sore throat? Do you have high blood pressure? Do you snore loudly? Is your sleep restless? Does your sleep partner comment that your legs or arms suddenly jerk during sleep? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions you should seek advice.
Treatments vary tremendously depending upon the severity of the condition and the prescribing doctor. The best thing you can do for your treatment is to be knowledgeable about your condition and the options available. Your choice of treatment will be easier to make and your doctor will appreciate the time and effort you have taken to become informed about your condition and treatment options. There are basically four types of treatment available: there are lifestyle changes, appliance therapy, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and surgery.
Weight is a common factor in snoring and OSA, since fat in the throat contributes to the collapse of the airway.
Simple lifestyle changes can make big differences in your condition. Things you can do to help are:
Watch your weight, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol, drugs and heavy meals before bedtime.
Both alcohol & sleeping drugs interfere with breathing so a sufferer would be wise to avoid these chemicals!
Appliances are an excellent method of treatment for snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnoea. The oral appliance is fitted in as little as 15 minutes. Normally it takes four to seven nights to get use to wearing the appliance. Once you begin wearing the appliance all night long, patients are amazed how they awake feeling refreshed and rested.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a mechanical device for eliminating upper airway collapse. CPAP has been proven effective for approximately 90 to 95 percent of all OSA sufferers. CPAP is essentially an air compressor that attaches to a mask, which is secured over the patient's nose. The machine uses a regulated positive air pressure to maintain an open airway. Many cannot tolerate the mask over the face while sleeping.
Surgery is usually reserved for those OSA patients who have not responded to medical treatment. The most common surgical procedure for snoring and sleep apnoea has been uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP. In UPPP, the surgeon removes loose tissue in the upper airway, including the soft palate and the uvula. In recent years, laser surgery, or LAUP, has become a popular treatment for snoring. As you can see from the name, this procedure achieves the same results as the UPPP, but the surgeon uses a laser instead of a scalpel, the laser beam trims the uvula and the soft palate in a series of sessions performed under local anaesthesia. While surgery enjoys a good initial success rate in some, effectiveness is often diminished over time. Some patients may suffer a change in their voice and regurgitation of liquids through the nose when swallowing or even the loss of the gag reflex. Surgery has proven to be only about 50 % effective. Another form of surgery to treat snoring is called somnoplasty. This procedure involves shrinking the uvula by using a radio-frequency generator connected to a narrow needle. This needle penetrates the uvula and destroys a small area of inner tissue by generating heat.