Snoring. Cutting some logs. Rake up the coals. There are some expressions used to describe the loud, disruptive sounds some people make while they sleep. We use them in jest because, well, what else can we do? People who snore nightly – and loudly – suffer poor quality sleep. So do their bed partners. This is reason enough to get some degree of help in reducing the act of snoring. But there’s more. Snoring isn’t always what it seems. Research indicates that chronic snoring, the kind that interrupts sleep, could be a potentially serious medical condition.
Snoring as a Secondary Condition
Because there are so many snoring remedies readily available, such as “snoring strips” and nasal spray, there is a risk of perceiving snoring itself as a primary condition. Snoring results from the rough passage of air over the soft tissue through the airway, which includes the nose and the throat. The difficulty of air flow does not occur for no reason. There is always something that instigates snoring. This could be temporary swelling due to allergies or a cold, or it could be something more. Finding that something more is vital to long-term health.
In many cases, studies have found that snoring occurs secondary to a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. Air flow becomes blocked, but not because of swelling. When obstructive sleep apnea exists, it is the throat that closes up during sleep. This closure is the natural result of full relaxation of the muscles around the airway. The difference between blockage due to swelling and blockage due to relaxed muscles is significant. It means that no air is getting through to the brain.
How to Know When Help is Needed
If you observe a person who snores chronically, you may notice that sounds become very loud for some time, and then they stop altogether. At first, this may seem like a welcome reprieve from the toll of snoring. It isn’t. Silence means breathing has paused. After a short period of silence (this could be several seconds), there may be a choking, gasping, or gagging sound. This indicates that the brain has released a burst of adrenaline to restore breathing.
The signs of obstructive sleep apnea are relatively easy to catch. If there is any question, a medical evaluation should be obtained. Sleep apnea is a dangerous health condition for which treatment is available. Oral appliance therapy is both efficient and comfortable and is available to patients of our Scottsdale office. For more information, call (480) 657-6981.