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Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Snoring is a loud, hoarse and harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep and is a common condition that can affect anyone, although it occurs mostly in men or people who are overweight, it also has a tendency to worsen with age.  In addition to being overweight there are many other reasons that a person can suffer with snoring including the last month of pregnancy, nasal congestion from colds or allergies, swelling of the muscular part of the roof of the mouth, swollen adenoids and tonsils, prominence of the area at the base of the tongue and having a large tongue. Factors that can often help subside snoring would be losing weight or avoiding alcohol close to bedtime.  

If your child snores you should consult a pediatrician about the cause of this as a child can also have obstructive sleep apnea which can be caused by enlarged tonsils or obesity. Sleep apnea has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, poor school performance, learning difficulties, bedwetting, and high blood pressure.

Heavy snoring can be a danger sign of a greater problem known as sleep apnea.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million adults suffer with sleep apnea. The most difficult part for a patient is to recognize the difference between occasional snoring and sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is when you completely or partially stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep and occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite the efforts to breathe. This can cause broken sleep patterns and low blood oxygen levels. Many medical problems including but not limited to as a result of sleep apnea are hypertension, heart disease, mood swings, depression, daytime drowsiness and memory loss.

Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. Air flow can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:

  • Obstructed nasal airways: Seasonal allergies or acute sinus infections could be one reason for an obstructed nasal airway. Nose polyps and deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum (a structural change in the wall that separates one nostril from the other) can also cause obstructed nasal airways.
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: Throat and tongue muscles can become too relaxed, allowing the muscles to collapse and fall back into the airway. This can happen as a natural aging process or can also can result from deep sleep, alcohol consumption, and use of some sleeping pills.
  • Bulky throat tissue: Being over weight can cause adults to have bulky throat tissue. Furthermore, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.
  • Long soft palate and/or uvula: A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. When these structures vibrate and bump against one another the airway becomes obstructed, causing snoring.

Occasional snoring is usually not very serious, however, if you are a habitual snorer it could cause several more serious problems such as:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness  
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sore Throat           
  • Restless sleep pattern
  • Gasping at night
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats

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