About 90 million Americans suffer from snoring activity during sleep.While half of these people are “simple snorer’s” or primary snorers, the other half may have a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The two conditions are often inaccurately used interchangeably and may be incorrectly treated as a result. While OSA will almost always leads to loud and frequent snoring, snoring does not always indicate OSA.
Understanding the differences between sleep apnea and primary snoring is the first step to effective treatment of both conditions. For all the people across the country who are getting nudged or elbowed throughout the night from frustrated bed partners, it’s important to know what their snoring means, and how they can silence it.
Do your researchKnowing the difference between the two conditions is key in determining proper treatment. Snoring is the result of tissues in the throat relaxing enough that they partially block the airway and vibrate, creating a sound. Depending on an individual’s anatomy and other lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and body weight, the sound of the vibration can be louder or softer.
Loud frequent snoring is one of the indicators of OSA, which is a chronic condition characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. When people with OSA fall asleep, they can stop breathing for a few seconds to a minute or more. Both conditions can be caused or made worse by obesity, large tongue and tonsils, aging and head and neck shape.
Do talk to your doctorIf you or your partner is a frequent loud snorer, stops breathing, gasps or chokes during sleep, experiences excessive restlessness at night or feels sleepy during the day, you may want to bring it up with your doctor to see whether a sleep study is necessary. Taking this first step to get tested prior to beginning any treatment prevents inaccurate self-diagnosis, inadequate treatment, and/or premature dismissal of the problem. Your primary care physician will be able to refer you to a sleep specialist.
Do get treatedSnoring treatments range from lifestyle alterations, such as weight loss, a decrease in alcohol consumption and changing sleeping positions, to oral devices, nasal strips and even surgery. Treatment of OSA, however, often involves CPAP , a blower connected by a tube to a mask that fits over the mouth or nose, blowing air so that a continuous pressure in the airway is maintained. This constant pressure keeps the airway from collapsing allowing normal breathing.