Ear, Nose & Throat CareSpecializing in treating disorders of the ear, nose & throat. Skilled in the latest surgical advancements for head and neck surgery.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. The structures that are usually involved are the uvula and soft palate.
Snoring is usually documented by a friend or partner who observes the person sleeping. Besides the noise of snoring, more complex conditions such as sleep apnea can be consistent with the symptom of snoring. Patients are also able to assess their own conditions to determine the likelihood of these problems based on their sleeping difficulties.
Almost all treatments for snoring revolve around clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. You may be able to treat snoring by simply making changes in your lifestyle and in the way you sleep. Some examples include:
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Sleep on your side rather than your back
- Limit the amount of alcohol and sedatives before bed
- Use nasal strips which can widen the nostrils and improve airflow
- Use of prescription nasal sprays to reduce swelling
If nasal congestion is present, you can try to clear the nasal passages. This will open the airways, permitting a smoother airflow, and can reduce snoring.
If snoring continues or gets worse, you may need to be tested to see if you have developed upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea. And finally, in extreme cases, surgeries may be performed.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is described by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing, during sleep. Each pause in breathing is called an apnea. It can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. An apnea can also occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Likewise, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea.
Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram. Sleep studies will determine how often you stop breathing or if you have too little air flowing into your lungs during sleep. They also can determine how much oxygen you have in your blood during sleep. Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined as six or more episodes per hour of any type of apnea.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common category of sleep-disordered breathing. The muscle tones of the body usually relax during sleep, and the throat is composed of collapsible walls of soft tissue which can obstruct breathing during sleep. Chronic severe obstructive sleep apnea requires treatment to prevent low blood oxygen and sleep deprivation. Most people at high risk for OSA are: obese, elderly, smokers, diabetics, and men.
Treatment for sleep apnea is based on its severity:
- For mild cases, a treatment option is lifestyle changes such as: lose weight, sleeping on your side, and avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.
- For moderate to severe cases, the most common treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. It generates the required air pressure to keep the patient’s airway open during sleep
- If the non-surgical options have failed, surgical treatments are available to alter the airway.
The goal of most surgeries for breathing problems is to widen the airway. This is done by taking out or shrinking excess tissue where the mouth meets the throat.
- UPPP (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) – This is the most common procedure for sleep apnea. It trims the soft palate and uvula, and removes the tonsils and other tissue. It is major surgery performed in a hospital. Most patients go home within 24 hours.
- LAUP (Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty) – This procedure helps relieve snoring. It may also be used in some cases of mild apnea. The doctor uses a laser or electric current to remove some of the soft palate and part or all of the uvula. This treatment may be done over several sessions in the doctor’s office.