Heavy snoring can be caused by a variety of factors, but generally it happens when the muscles of your throat relax and the walls begin to vibrate when you breathe. The vibration increases as the airway becomes narrower, causing your snoring to become louder. If the throat collapses, you could have a cessation of breathing known as sleep apnea. This is a dangerous medical condition that requires the attention of an ENT doctor.
Additional Causes of Snoring
Snoring can be caused by aging which leads to a natural relaxation of your throat muscles, or by abnormalities in the nose or throat such as nasal polyps, deviated nasal septum, or enlarged tonsils which can cause extreme narrowing of the throat. Other issues such as inflammation from allergies or respiratory infections can also result in snoring, as can sleeping on your back or drinking alcohol before going to bed.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
People with obstructive apnea will have episodes of breathing cessation for greater than 10 seconds at a time when their airway collapses. It’s dangerous because it lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood, causing the heart to work harder, and it leaves the patient poorly rested. Apnea sufferers can have 30 to 300 of these events per night. If it’s left untreated, the patient can develop medical problems such as strokes, diabetes or heart attacks.
If your snoring is not caused by obstructive apnea, you have several treatment choices. For example, excess weight can cause snoring, so try a healthy lifestyle to lose weight and add muscle. You should also avoid alcohol and other depressants for at least four hours before bed and don’t eat anything three hours prior to sleep. Elevating the head of your bed by four inches can help relieve snoring as can establishing regular sleep patterns and sleeping on your side instead of your back.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Depending on the level of upper airway narrowing, there are a few methods available to treat obstructive apnea during sleep. Usually patients are treated with a CPAP machine that uses positive air pressure to open your airway through a nasal mask worn overnight. Your doctor may also choose to use uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) surgery to remove excess soft palate tissue and open up your airway. Your remaining tissue hardens as it heals and relieves tissue vibration. A tonsillectomy may be included to further enlarge the air passage. An ENT doctor may also give you the option of a custom-fit oral appliance to move the lower jaw into a forward position.
Treatment for snoring may depend on the severity of your issue. If your snoring is disruptive to your partner or you feel like you cannot function during the day because you are exhausted – see one of our Oklahoma ENT doctors for a sleep test to determine what the best course of action is for your situation.
Call our Southwest Oklahoma City clinic at 405.759.7600, or check out our website to find the clinic most convenient for you, okoa.org.