The Wonders of Snoring


Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone. Snoring can be defined as an inspiratory (breathing in) noise produced by vibration of the soft parts of throat. Unfortunately, the term snoring is used to define all noises generated in sleep, from merely annoying noises to the dangerous and disturbing sounds made by patients with Sleep Apnoea.

It's easy to laugh at people who snore. Sometimes the snorer tries to be a good sport and laugh along, but laughing at someone's problem is never a nice thing to do. Every snorer wishes there was something they could do about it, and is probably privately embarrassed about it, no matter what they say. Both snorers and non-snorers should realize that snoring is a physical condition no different than any other, and the snorer has absolutely no control over it, just like epilepsy or any other condition.

It's easy to get mad at snorers, too: don't. It isn't their fault. Try to be sympathetic and live by the golden rule: if you had a physical problem thet you had no control over, would you like people to laugh at you? You don't laugh at people in wheelchairs, do you?

People who snore have at least one of the following problems:

  1. Low muscle tone in the muscles of the tongue and throat (Alcohol and other drugs relax these muscles even further, causing increased snoring);
  2. Excessive bulkiness of tissue in the throat, such as large tonsils and adenoids, big uvulas (the part that is hanging in the throat), or excessive length of the soft palate ;
  3. Obstructed nasal airways. When the mucous membranes become stuffy and swollen, the air passages become smaller. You then have to breathe with exaggerated force to move the air through the narrow hole. This explains why some people only snore during hayfever season, or when they have a cold.
  4. Anatomical deformities in the airway. Some people have a broken or crooked nose, which cuts down on the airway size. Being overweight can also cause snoring, because fat deposits around the upper airway make the airway smaller.

About half of all adults snore occasionally, and one out of four snores regularly.

Snoring is much more prevalent in men than in women until menopause, when almost as many women as men snore. Children may snore if they have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

There is a continuum ranging from Snoring Only (Stage 0) to Snoring associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. Treatment is necessary only when snoring is a feature of Sleep Apnoea. It is necessary to discuss treatment options with your physician. There are over 300 antisnoring devices registered. There are chin and head straps, neck collars, jaw braces, and electrical devices. Some are expensive, and some might be dangerous.

Some common-sense things which you can do to help your problem:

Your family physician may refer you to an otylaryngologist (Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist) for assessment. Surgery to increase airflow in the airway, such as removing tonsils, or correcting a deviated septum, or eliminating extra tissue can sometimes help with snoring. Occasionally a procedure called UPPP (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) is recommended. This procedure acts like an internal facelift, tightening loose tissue. However, the success rate is only 50%.

It must be stressed that only your physician can determine what is the best treatment for you.

Many people are interested in the new Laser technology for performing surgery (LAUP). Recent TV shows have shown centers where this is done. Sometimes, the snoring is eliminated; but the sleep apnea remains. Once again, all options need to be considered in consultation with your physician.

Because snoring may later develop into sleep apnea, just treating snoring without testing for and treating sleep apnea is like taking the battery out of a smoke alarm--snoring is often a warning of apnea. Snoring can be a warning of sleep apnea, as Jerry Halberstadt reports. This is yet another reason to consult with your doctor and to have an evaluation by a sleep disorders expert before and after treatment for snoring. For more information on snoring, see therapies for snoring and sleep apnea.

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