According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of adults snore. For most, snoring has no serious medical consequences. However, for an estimated five in 100 people, extremely loud nightly snoring is the first indication of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) – a potentially life-threatening disorder. OSAS is characterized by a pattern of obstructive breathing during sleep, awakenings from sleep and daytime symptoms. In normal children and adults, sleep is accompanied by relaxation of the muscles that stiffen and open the throat. This muscular relaxation leads to a slight sleep-related narrowing of the throat that is of no importance for most people. However, in those suffering with OSAS, the sleep-related narrowing is so great that breathing becomes difficult, and the experience can be likened to breathing through a floppy, wet straw. The brain senses that breathing is difficult and increases the effort to breathe, briefly awakening the brain in order to stiffen and open the throat. Once awake, with a fully open throat, effort to breathe decreases. As breathing effort returns to normal, sleep is resumed and the cycle repeats itself. This detrimental cycle can disturb sleep dozens to hundreds of times each night, but most of the awakenings are so brief that they are not remembered.
Sufferers of OSAS may not get enough oxygen during sleep and probably don't sleep soundly. They may suffer daytime sleepiness affecting work and social activities, and increasing the likelihood of car accidents. OSAS sufferers may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack or stroke.
An otolaryngology evaluation is very helpful in the evaluation of snoring and OSAS. A careful examination of the upper airway is performed both to try to determine the site of airway collapse as well as to make sure that there are no other medical problems that might be causing the sleep disturbance. Possible sites of obstructions include the nose, tonsils, soft palate and uvula, tongue and voice box. Treatments will differ depending on the severity of the problem and the results of the exam.
Options for snoring include the following:
Options for obstructive sleep apnea include the following:
As part of our Sleep Disorders Center, we have a CPAP Clinic for our patients being treated for sleep apnea with CPAP. In this clinic, run by our chief sleep technologist, Ann Wilkinson, R.PSG.T., we see patients who are having difficulty adjusting to CPAP, as well as our patients with equipment problems. This Clinic has been very helpful in increasing compliance with CPAP therapy. For more information: American Academy of Sleep Medicine One Westbrook Corporate Center, Ste.920 Westchester, IL 60154 Tel: 708-492-0930 www.aasmnet.org American Sleep Apnea Association 1522 K Street, NW, Ste. 302 Washington, DC 20005 firstname.lastname@example.org