About half of the population snores or will snore at some point or another. Although many people shrug off snoring as a fact of life or nothing to worry about, there are cases when it can be very serious. For example, in some circumstances, snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition.
Although people with sleep apnea snore, not every person who snores has sleep apnea. There are ways to recognize and understand the differences. Since sleep apnea can interfere with your daily life or lead to other health problems, getting the right diagnosis and treatment is critical for your continued health.
Why People Snore
People snore for a wide range of reasons. In some cases, the shape and size of a person’s mouth can make him or her more likely to snore. If the soft palate is lower than average or very thick, it can interfere with the airway. The length of the uvula can also influence whether a person snores or not. When the uvula is longer than average, it is more likely to vibrate and can block the airway.
In some cases, lifestyle choices can play a role in whether a person snores or not. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can make snoring more likely, as alcohol causes the muscles in the throat to relax.
Some people only snore when they are dealing with a cold or other respiratory infection. Congestion and inflammation in the nasal passages makes it difficult for air to travel through. There are also people who only snore when they sleep on their backs. When a person lies on his or her back, gravity can make the airway narrower, which makes snoring more likely.
Finally, some people snore as a result of obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
When a person has sleep apnea, his or her breathing might stop multiple times over the course of a night. These breathing stops or pauses occur frequently, up to 30 times during a single hour. The obstructive form of sleep apnea (there are other, less common types too) occurs when the airway is blocked during sleep or somehow collapses while a person is sleeping.
The loud snoring associated with sleep apnea usually occurs when a person manages to pull air into the airways.
Sleep apnea is much more than snoring, because the condition directly affects the quality of sleep you end up getting. When a person stops breathing or pauses breathing, he or she moves out of a deep sleep cycle into a lighter sleep cycle. Some people aren’t able to move back into a deeper sleep cycle and end up not getting a good night’s sleep, night after night.
What to Do About Snoring or Sleep Apnea
The good news is that there are several ways to treat snoring and sleep apnea. If your doctor determines that you don’t have sleep apnea but a simple case of snoring, he might recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as drinking less or losing weight, first. If those changes don’t help the snoring, treatments such as surgery or wearing a special appliance might be effective.
In the case of sleep apnea, the most common type of treatment is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine features a mask that you wear over your mouth and nose. While you sleep, the machine blows air into your airway. Since it is pressurized, the air is able to make its way down your throat so that you breathe through the night.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients in the Hudson Valley who snore or have other breathing problems. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about the difference between snoring and sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.