What it is, why it’s bad and what you can do about it.1. What is snoring?
Snoring is defined as a type of breathing during sleep accompanied by harsh or hoarse sounds caused by the vibration of the soft palate and other tissues at the back of the throat. Breathing occurs through the open mouth and nose. Snoring is a subjective experience on the part of the person forced to listen to it.
2. Is snoring the same as sleep apnea?
No. Snoring occurs in 90 per cent or more of people with sleep apnea but is not the same condition. Snoring is the sound made by vibration of the soft palate without episodes of sleep apnea (breathing pauses) or hypoventilation (shallow breathing).
3. What are some of the potential consequences of snoring?
Very loud and persistent snoring commonly leads to severe strains on relationships because of the sleep disruption it causes. Snoring can lead to multiple arousals (wakefulness during the night) and severe sleep fragmentation. Both of these disturbances can result in excessive sleepiness during the day.
4. What can I do about my snoring?
Lifestyle factors contribute to snoring and modification of these can sometimes lessen the degree and intensity with which you snore. These include losing weight (if you are overweight or obese), not sleeping on your back, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, quitting smoking, and treating nasal congestion. If is important that your doctor also excludes any anatomical abnormalities that can contribute to snoring or worsen it, including adenoids, large tonsils, jaw problems, and nasal blockages.
5. Are there any good devices that may help my partner stop snoring?
Mandibular repositioning splints (MRS) are probably the best devices we have currently for treating snoring — especially if it’s simple — and mild sleep apnea. These oral appliances are shaped like gum shields or mouthguards, and are worn over the teeth at night during sleep. The idea is to hold the lower jaw forward, thereby opening the airspace at the back of the throat. In some instances, they are called mandibular advancement devices (MAD). Mandibular repositioning splints should be made by a dentist, orthodontist or prosthodontist. Good evidence exists to show that they work if constructed properly by an experienced professional.
6. Are there any other devices that might help?
Adhesive external nasal dilator strips (ENDS) are often suggested as a way of preventing snoring. However, large trials have not revealed any convincing evidence that they cause significant improvement in snoring. Mouthguards bought over the counter are generally useless. If a partner is disturbed by snoring, ear plugs or sleeping in another room can help in extreme cases of very disruptive snoring.
7. Is surgery useful in treating snoring?
If there is no evidence of sleep apnea after an overnight sleep study or problems with sleepiness during the day because of snoring, then surgery may be useful. If you are considering a surgical solution to your snoring, you must see a specialist for an assessment. There are a number of different techniques used to treat snoring surgically, but overall the success rates are low, ranging from 20 to 50 per cent maximum six years after the surgery. Remember that some techniques have never been subjected to proper clinical trials, so be very careful.
8. Is it really important that I do something about my snoring?
Snoring is far from being just a nuisance and is rarely a joke either for those who snore or, more importantly, for people who have to put up with their snoring. Persistent snoring can put an unbearable strain on relationships, even neighborly ones, and can lead to various medical problems. There is some evidence that people who snore have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and that women who snore may have higher-risk pregnancies with detrimental effects on the developing fetus.