Snoring is one of the most common and annoying problems amongst people of both sexes across the world. Everyone tends to dismiss it as a digression from normal breathing which is no more than an irritant for the spouse during sleep. In fact, many people believe it to be an indicator of deep and satisfying sleep. It is only recently that it has been recognized as a major health problem with serious and sometimes life threatening complications Dr. Neeru Bali explains its causes in detail, how to avoid it and more…
Although snoring is not synonymous with sleep apnea but both diseases significantly overlap. However, it is extremely important to differentiate the two as medical consequences might vary. One may snore quite heavily without sleep apnea and alternatively, serious sleep apnea may occur in the absence of snoring.
Causes Of Snoring
Normal causes of snoring are throat tissues that relax during breathing so that they partially block the airways and vibrate. This creates the sound of snoring. The intensity of the resultant sound produced depends on the individual’s anatomy and swelling of the mucosa of the nose and/or throat due to chronic infection or allergy. Even lifestyle factors such as obesity and heavy alcohol consumption contribute in a major way to snoring.
Causes Of Snoring And Related Health Risks
Loud frequent snoring may be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is a chronic condition characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.When people with OSA fall asleep, they often stop breathing for few seconds to a minute or more. Both these conditions may be caused or made worse by obesity, large tongue, large tonsils or adenoids. Ageing and shape of head and neck also play an important role in OSA. A number of serious medical conditions have been recognized which may be either caused solely by OSA or made worse by it.
a) Morning headache: Due to OSA, these patients don’t have a satisfying sleep leading to daytime somnolence. In addition, they tend to retain carbon dioxide in their blood which contributes to early morning headache and grogginess.
b) Poor concentration: This is also due to carbon dioxide retention.
c) Obesity: OSA and obesity from a vicious cycle. Obesity leads to OSA which in turn causes more obesity.
d) Memory loss: Some patients may have a severe deficit in memory leading to a misplaced diagnosis of dementia. This response remarkably on the treatment of OSA
d)High blood pressure: It has been repeatedly observed that large majority of patients suffering from OSA have high blood pressure. Moreover, many of them have difficulty in treating high BP or resistant Hypertension and require multiple drugs for control.
e) Diabetes: Diabetes has been linked to OSA and many of these patients may require high doses of Insulin for sugar control
f) Arrhythmias: A number of cardiac arrhythmias have been causally related to OSA. Atrial fibrillation is the commonest arrhythmia with all its adverse consequences. More sinister arrhythmias like ventricular tachycardia and even ventricular fibrillation have been occasionally observed in these patients without any other underlying disease.These sinister arrhythmias have been blamed for sudden cardiac death seen occasionally in patients with severe OSA.
g) Heart failure: Congestive heart failure may also occur in patients with severe OSA. Many of these patients have heart failure with preserved left-ventricular function in which heart failure occurs despite normal pumping action of the heart. Many patients with heart failure have OSA. Their heart failure may not respond to medicines unless OSA is taken care of. Worldwide OSA is being increasingly recognized as an important contributor in patients with intractable heart failure.
h) Strokes: Cerebrovascular accidents have been observed more commonly in patients with OSA.
Causes Of Snoring And Treatment: When do you need to consult a physician or a Sleep-specialist?
If you or your partner is a frequent loud snorer, choke during sleep, experience excessive restlessness at night, feel sleepy during daytime; you should consult a physician to see if sleep studies are necessary. Taking this step prevents inaccurate self-diagnosis, inadequate treatment and premature dismissal of the problem.
Treatment of sleep apnea ranges from life style modification to changing sleep posture to oral devices, nasal straps, and even corrective surgery. Life style changes include losing weight and marked the reduction in alcohol intake. Many patients are prescribed CPAP. It is a type of a blower which is connected via a tube to a mask that fits smugly over mouth and nose. This device generates a constant pressure during the entire respiratory cycle to keep airways open and prevents their collapse thereby allowing normal unobstructed breathing.
If you or someone in your family is excessively snoring; it may be the right time to suspect OSA and see your doctor. Say no to snoring for a healthy sleep and prevention of sinister diseases!