Why Do I Snore?
Snoring is a common condition that almost half of us do occasionally and at least one quarter of us do routinely. Because it is so common, it is not viewed as a potentially serious issue. However, snoring can have significant social and medical consequences. At its worse, snoring prevents loved ones from sharing the same room. Snoring may also be a sign of sleep apnea, a medical condition associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart failure. To make matters worse, the snorer is typically unaware of their disturbance to others , which unfortunately leads to delays in seeking treatment.
Snoring is caused by the vibration of certain upper airway structures during sleep. In sleep, when all of the body’s muscles are relaxed, those inside the soft palate, tongue and throat are as well. In patients who snore, these structures may be bulkier or floppier, causing more resistance to the movement of air during breathing. The sound of snoring results from these partially collapsed upper airway structures vibrating as air attempts to pass between them. Nasal obstruction may also cause snoring due to a vacuum-like effect on the soft palate while trying to breathe in through blocked nasal passages.
In general, weight loss, sleeping on your side, and avoiding alcohol, sedatives and strenuous activity prior to bed will improve snoring severity. If these measures are unsuccessful, snoring may be treated in any number of ways, depending on which upper airway structures it is thought to originate from. For some patients, nasal obstruction may be the sole cause of snoring and is treated simply with medications or minor procedures like inferior turbinoplasty. However, in many cases the culprits in habitual snoring are an elongated uvula and floppy soft palatal tissue. Until recently, laser surgery of the soft palate was performed to shrink this tissue and reduce snoring. Thankfully, far less painful procedures like the Soft Palate Coblation are available today and are easily performed in the office.
Of crucial importance is a thorough evaluation to ensure that sleep apnea is not associated with the snoring. A complete history and physical examination, including fiberoptic evaluation of upper airway, should be performed to rule out nasal disorders, tonsil, adenoid or tongue enlargement, or tissue growths in the upper airway as potential causes of snoring or apnea. After evaluation, if sleep apnea rather than snoring is suspected, an overnight sleep study at our sleep diagnostic center will be recommended. For those believed just to have simple snoring, an at-home, overnight sleep screen to rule out apnea is required before proceeding with treatment.