Snoring and Sleep Apnea…Common Bed Fellows

How many commercials have you heard about various devices to keep you from snoring?  Some of them are quite whimsical.  But, this is really not a “laughing matter.”  Let’s explore some ideas about why we snore, how to correct it, and the problem with undiagnosed sleep apnea.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is the loud noise that is produced in your throat when there is some form of obstruction. As you doze off and start to go from light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue and throat start to relax.  This relaxation can cause a partial obstruction in your airway and cause that obnoxious vibration called “snoring”.

The causes of this partial obstruction are:

  • Anatomy of your mouth
    • Thick soft palate
    • Being overweight increases the thickness of the tissues
    • Elongation of the uvula
  • Alcohol: too much before bedtime causes excessive relaxation of throat muscles
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep position: Lying on your back increases snoring

Snoring is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and may causes these symptoms:

  • Your partner notices pauses in your breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches on waking
  • Poor concentration
  • Restless sleep…tossing and turning
  • Gasping or nighttime choking
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Children also may have sleep apnea
    • Poor attention span
    • Behavioral issues
    • Poor school performance

How can you find out if you truly have sleep apnea?

After your partner has complained enough about your “snuffling and gruffling” (new words!), maybe it’s time to consult with your doctor.  After a careful history and physical exam your doctor may recommend a sleep study.  This evaluation can often be done at home.

All these wires?

Yes, you will need to “hook” yourself up to a few wires to measure:

  • Oxygen levels ( a little device on your finger)
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing rate
  • Sleep stages

This test will analyze your sleep patterns and determine if you “stop breathing” long enough to cause a drop in your oxygen levels.  Not getting enough oxygen at any time, but especially when you are sleeping is not good for you or your brain.

What can you do to stop snoring?

  • Lose weight…change your diet and lifestyle
  • No alcohol close to bedtime
  • Clear your nasal passage with saline nasal rinses
  • Enhance your sleep patterns
  • Don’t sleep on your back

When these lifestyle measures aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend oral appliances to open up your mouth and tongue position or the utilization of a device called Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep your airway open as you sleep.  There are other drastic measures, but I will not explore these at this time.

When in doubt if you have sleep apnea, please give Dr. Bedinghaus a call at 303-986-0492 and get started on the path to better, vibrant health.

BETTER SLEEP FOR A BRIGHT YOU!