You may not know you snore. After all, you can’t hear yourself. But your bed partner may have pointed it out. And if you do know you snore, you may think it is just an annoying part of sleep – that it is common and everyone does it. Right? Not exactly.
Some research indicates 40% of adults and 7% of children snore on a regular basis. Approximately 60% of the people report their bed partner snores and greater than 25% of couples report sleeping in separate beds. Snoring is more common in men, but occurs frequently in women during pregnancy and after menopause.
Snoring is caused by airway blockage. As we age we experience a loss of elasticity in the tissues of the soft palate. The tongue, uvula and soft tissues at the back of the throat relax. If they relax too much they narrow the airway causing the tissues to vibrate as the air passes by when breathing during sleep. If present, tonsils and adenoids may also vibrate. And structural issues such as the shape of the nose or jaw can contribute.
From a medical insurance point of view, snoring is considered more of a “social” issue than a “medical” one. It is why most plans don’t cover treatment for snoring. Therefore, it is very important for people who snore to be evaluated and the presence of more serious sleep related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, be ruled out. Or to identify if a deformity, infection or nasal allergy may be a contributing factor. Individuals whose snoring is caused by severe sleep apnea have a significantly higher risk of dying early due to other directly related medical conditions and should seek treatment from a healthcare professional.
SO . . . what if the evaluation by a professional in sleep disorders breathing ruled out sleep apnea and the diagnosis is snoring? What now?
There are several lifestyle changes that can help reduce snoring:
- Lose weight if you are overweight. [Note: thin people can snore, too.]
- Avoid or limit the use of alcohol or other sedatives before you go to sleep.
- Quit smoking.
- Sleep on your side versus on your back.
- If you have a stuffy nose use decongestants or nasal corticosteroid sprays to help you breathe.
There are also treatment options such as:
- An oral appliance worn during sleep. Custom made, it fits similar to a sports guard or orthodontic retainer. It positions your jaw slightly forward to open the airway. Oral appliance therapy can be provided by a qualified dentist.
- NightLase™ – a non-surgical, non-invasive patient oriented treatment. A laser is used to warm the collagen fibers thus tightening and rejuvenating the tissues of the soft palate. The result is an opening of the airway. This treatment consist of 3 sessions 3 weeks apart – with no down time.