Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring is a loud, hoarse and harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep. It 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.

Sleep apnea is when you completely or partially stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep. This 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 result from sleep apnea. A few include hypertension, heart disease, mood swings, depression, daytime drowsiness and memory loss.

What Causes Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. In addition to being overweight, pregnancy, nasal congestion, and swollen adenoids and tonsils can cause snoring.

Airflow can also be obstructed by a combination of other 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 a deep sleep, alcohol consumption and use of some sleeping pills.

Bulky throat tissue: Being overweight can cause adults to have bulky throat tissue. Furthermore, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.

The long soft palate and/or uvula: A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the 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.

What You Can Do

Want to reduce snoring? Losing weight or avoiding alcohol close to bedtime can often help subside snoring.

When to See an Expert

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

In adults, occasional snoring is usually not very serious. If you are a habitual snorer, though, it could cause several more serious problems. Heavy snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million adults suffer from sleep apnea.

The most difficult part for a patient is to recognize the difference between occasional snoring and sleep apnea.

Learn how one patient’s sleep apnea was treated.

Not to worry — our sleep specialists can help.

Contact Us

Call 816.346.7450 for more information about our sleep studies and support groups.