Problems Associated
With Snoring

Problems Associated With Snoring: Overview

Snoring is one symptom of a group of disorders known as sleep disordered breathing.  It occurs when the soft palate, uvula, tongue, tonsils, and/or muscles in the back of the throat rub against each other and generate a vibrating sound during sleep.

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Incidence; Causes and Development

Some 20% of all adults are chronic snorers, and 45% of normal adults snore occasionally.  As people grow older, they are more likely to snore.  Approximately half of all individuals over 60 snore regularly.

There are several major causes of snoring, including:

  • Excessively relaxed throat muscles.  Alcohol, drugs, and sedatives can cause the throat muscles to become lax, and/or the tongue to pull back into the airway.
  • Large uvula.  The piece of tissue that hangs from the back of the throat is called the uvula.  Individuals with a large or longer than average uvula can suffer from snoring when the uvula vibrates in the airway.
  • Large tonsils and/or adenoids.  The tonsils (tissue at the back of either side of the throat) can also vibrate if they are larger than normal, as can the adenoids.
  • Excessive weight.  Overweight people are more likely to snore.  This is frequently caused by the extra throat and neck tissue they are carrying around.
  • Nasal congestion.  Colds and allergies can plug the nose, creating a vacuum in the throat that results in snoring as airflow increases.
  • Cysts and tumors.  Cysts and/or tumors of the throat can trigger snoring.
  • Structural problems of the nose.  A deviated septum or other nasal problems can cause snoring.

Diagnosis and Tests

A patient interview, and possibly an interview with the patient's spouse or anyone else in the household who has witnessed the snoring, is usually enough for a diagnosis.  A medical history that includes questions about alcohol or tranquilizer use; past ear, nose, and throat problems; and the pattern and degree of snoring will be completed, and a physical exam will be performed to determine the cause of the problem.  This will typically include examination of the throat to look for narrowing, obstruction, or malformations.

If the snoring is suspected to be a symptom of a more serious disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea, the patient will require further testing.  This testing is called a polysomnography study ("sleep study"), and is conducted during an overnight stay in a specialized sleep laboratory.  The sleep study includes measurements of heart rate, airflow at the mouth and nose, respiratory effort, sleep stage (light sleep, deep sleep, dream sleep, etc.), and oxygen level in the blood.

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Problems Associated With Snoring:

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Problems Associated With Snoring:

Symptoms - Sleep

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Risk factors for Problems Associated With Snoring:

Circulation

Arrhythmias/Dysrhythmias

Snoring can be a sign of atrial fibrillation – an irregular, often rapid heart beat that causes poor blood flow.

Respiratory

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Sleep apnea manifests itself in most people as loud snoring interrupted by periods of obstructed breathing or breath holding.  If you snore, it may be a symptom of a more serious disorder called obstructed sleep apnea (OSA).  People with OSA almost always snore heavily, because the same narrowing of the airway that causes snoring can also cause OSA.  Snoring may actually attribute to OSA as well, because the vibration of the throat tissues which occurs in snoring can cause the tissue to swell.

Recommendations for Problems Associated With Snoring:

Botanical

Peppermint Oil

Steam inhalation of essential oils of eucalyptus blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) or peppermint (Mentha piperita) can relieve congestion and thus improve snoring in some cases.

Goldenseal

Snoring caused by nasal congestion may be successfully treated with decongestants.  Some effective herbal remedies that clear the nasal passages include goldenrod and goldenseal.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod is an effective remedy that clears the nasal passages.

Eucalyptus Blue Gum

Steam inhalation of essential oils of eucalyptus blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) or peppermint (Mentha piperita) can relieve congestion and thus improve snoring in some cases.

Devices and Appliances

Air Filtering

Air filtering and removing other allergens from the bedroom can be useful.

Diet

Alcohol Avoidance

Avoid alcohol and sedatives before bedtime.

Weight Loss

Snoring thought to be caused by excessive weight may be curtailed by a sensible weight loss and exercise program.

Habits

Posture Improvement

Snoring usually worsens when an individual sleeps on his or her back, so sleeping on your side may alleviate the problem.  Those who have difficulty staying in a side-sleeping position may find sleeping with pillows behind them helps them maintain the position longer.

Mineral

MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane)

Research at Oregon Health Sciences University on 35 subjects suffering from chronic snoring has shown that MSM in a 16% water solution administered to each nostril 15 minutes prior to sleep provided significant reduction in 80% of the subjects after 1 to 4 days of use.  As a control, a saline solution was substituted for MSM in 8 of the patients who showed relief with MSM, without their knowledge.  7 of these 8 patients resumed loud snoring.  This change occurred within 24 hours of the substitution.  After the MSM treatment was restored, these 8 showed a significant reduction of snoring again.

Physical Medicine

Physical Supports and Devices

Many splints, braces, and other devices are available which reposition the nose, jaw, and/or mouth in order to clear the airways.  Other devices are designed to wake an individual when snoring occurs.

A MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device) is a device worn in the mouth at night to hold it closed and the lower jaw forward.  The device increases the space behind the tongue, which lessens snoring and may help obstructive sleep apnea.  They can be obtained from those dentists familiar with them.

Nasal strips that attach like an adhesive bandage to the bridge of the nose are available at most drugstores.  These can help stop snoring in some individuals by opening the nasal passages.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) helps some chronic snorers find relief by sleeping with a nasal mask which provides air pressure to the throat.

For some people, raising the head of the bed solves their snoring problem.  A slight incline can prevent the tongue from retracting into the back of the throat.  Bricks, wooden blocks, or specially designed wedges can be used to elevate the head of the bed approximately 4-16 inches (10-40cm).

Topical Applications

Dr. Robert M Currie associate clinical professor at Michigan State University who studied a product called "snoreless" (probably similar to another product called "snoreBgone") in a clinical trial states "I was amazed with the results – nearly 100% of the patients reported an extremely effective response." Snoreless is a safe, inexpensive mouth spray combining several lubricating oils and nutrients that gives up to eight hours of relief from the maddening noise associated with snoring.

Surgery/Invasive

Surgery

Several surgical procedures are available for treating chronic snoring.  These include:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – removing excess throat tissues (e.g. tonsils, parts of the soft palate) to expand the airway.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) – removing part of the uvula and palate with a surgical laser.
  • Palatal stiffening – a minimally-invasive surgical technique where a laser or a cauterizer is used to produce scar tissue in the soft palate in order to stop the vibrations that produce snoring.
  • Radiofrequency ablation – another technique which uses scarring to shrink the uvula and/or soft palate.  A needle electrode is used to shrink and scar the mouth and throat tissues.
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