Snoring and Sleep Apnea


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.