Snoring occurs when there is turbulent airflow causing the tissues of the upper airway to vibrate during sleep. This can be heard when there is an obstruction anywhere along the passage from the nose or mouth to the trachea (windpipe). It is estimated that 45% of normal adults snore occasionally and almost 25% are habitual snorers. Many factors can cause snoring, such as enlarged tonsils, adenoids, soft palate or uvula, being overweight, excessive alcohol or sedative consumption, or nasal obstruction.
While snoring may have a negative social impact on bed partners, it can also be a symptom of a more life-threatening condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA results from a significant obstruction of the tissues of the throat causing a person to actually stop breathing for over 10 seconds and often wake up with a loud snort, gasping for breath. This is repeated throughout the night leading to poor quality sleep and daytime sleepiness. In more severe cases this can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke.
If you snore or have difficulty breathing while you sleep, you would benefit from a thorough examination of your upper airway which is best performed by an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. The physicians at the Midwest Sinus Center are skilled in techniques of evaluating the tissues of the nasal and oral airways using the latest state-of-the-art fiberoptic technology.
Once the cause of the snoring is discovered, we can then determine which of the many treatment options will be best for you. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoiding sedatives or alcohol before bed, and sleeping on your side rather than your back are a good place to start, but sometimes more aggressive therapy is needed. This may include:
- Nasal surgery to correct a deviated nasal septum, enlarged turbinate tissue or nasal polyps causing obstruction
- Tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy
- Laser surgery (laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty - "LAUP") to remove the uvula and shorten the soft palate
- Pillar implants to stiffen the palate thereby reducing vibration
- Traditional surgery such as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty ("UPPP") removing and tightening tissues in the throat and palate
- The new and exciting upper airway stimulation therapy (Inspire™)
Significant nasal surgery, tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies and UPPP's are performed in an operating room with the patient completely asleep under general anesthetic, but LAUP's, Pillar implants and minor procedures to reduce nasal turbinates can be performed in the office under a local anesthetic with shorter recovery periods and significantly less pain. Our physicians have extensive experience in all of these techniques and will be able to determine which would be best for you.
If there is concern of sleep apnea, we will arrange for an overnight sleep study. This will confirm the presence and quantify the severity of OSA. If surgery is not desired, or if the OSA severity warrants, the patient may be a candidate for a nasal mask that delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) while sleeping, forcing air into the upper airway and thereby keeping it open. Unfortunately, while this is one of the best treatments for OSA, for many it can be uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Our patients with less severe OSA may be able to avoid CPAP with the comprehensive therapy we provide at the Midwest Sinus Center.