Snoring is a sign that air is not freely flowing through
the throat passageway. For many adults, loud habitual snoring
is the first indication of a potentially life threatening disorder:
obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Apnea is the pausing of airflow
for more than 10 seconds while an individual is sleeping.
People with sleep apnea do not get enough oxygen and their
sleep is poor. Sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness, chronic
fatigue, impaired memory and judgment, mood disturbance, and
decreased libido. There is even evidence that it can trigger
hyper tension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will want to obtain a
medical history and discuss the patient's sleeping and waking
behavior. The doctor will perform a head and neck exam looking
for problems that might affect sleep related breathing. The
patient may be referred to a sleep laboratory to spend the night
to monitor various aspects of sleep.
For those with disruptive snoring and mild sleep apnea, losing
weight, avoiding alcohol and heavy meals within two hours of
bedtime, avoiding sedative use, and sleeping on one's side are
practical interventions that can improve or even cure snoring
and sleep apnea. Radio frequency treatment of the soft palate
performed in the office setting may also be helpful as could
be the fabrication of an oral appliance.
To treat severe sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure
( CPAP ) is a highly effective therapy. Surgical intervention
may be a viable alternative for particular patients. It is important
to keep in mind that no surgical procedure is universally successful.
If the airway collapses at the soft palate, a laser assisted
uvulopalatoplasty ( LAUP ) may be helpful. If collapse
occurs at the tongue base, a hyoid suspension or repositioning
the jaw with a mandibular osteotomy may be indicated.
If someone close to you has spoken of your loud snoring and
has noticed that you often wake up abruptly, gasping for air,
you should consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.