Snoring and Sleep Apnea

More than 30% of adults snore, at least a few nights each week.  Imagine how many people’s sleep are disrupted from one person’s loud snore and what is more a concern is when snoring causes health problems.

Snoring happens when the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat vibrates in a relaxed condition during sleep.

Some conditions which may precipitate snoring are inflammation of the respiratory tract such as hay fever, influenza or sinusitis, alcohol, obesity and smoking.  Children can also snore due to enlarged tonsils.

Habitual snoring may just be annoying and cause daytime sleepiness, but in some conditions it may cause serious health problems, that is when it is sleep apnea.

When you snore and notice some of these symptoms you might have sleeping apnea.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes of “not breathing” during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)

Apnea is a Greek word for “without breath”.  When sleep apnea is related to the topic above, it is called obstructive sleep apnea.  There is also another type, called central sleep apnea, when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

In obstructive sleep apnea, the relaxing muscles of throat and tongue with the narrowing airways causes a transient stop of breathing.  This may lower the level of oxygen in the blood.  When the brain senses this condition, it rouses you from sleep so you wake up and open your airway.  This “wake up call” is usually brief and most people do not remember it.  This pattern may repeat 20 – 30 times each hour.  This disruption may cause the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Before you consult your doctor, you can folow these tips to avoid snoring:

  • Sleep on your side. Lying on the back allows the tongue to fall backward into the throat
  • Reduce yor body weight if you are overweight. People who are overweight have more loose throat tissue which are more likely to vibrate when they breathe and extra bulkiness in the throat would make the airway more narrow.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake and avoid drinking alcohol 4-5 hours before sleep, since alcohol acts as a sedative, relaxing the throat muscles.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or sedative medicines. These medicines will relax the throat muscles.

When all of the above doesn’t help, you should consult your doctor.  A long term of apnea epsidose may cause serious complications, such as:

  • Cardiovascular problems. The sudden drop of oxygen level may increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system.
  • Fatigue. Without a good night sleep, people with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may also experience difficulty concentrating.
  • Others : morning headaches,mood swings, depression, need to urinate frequently at night, etc.

There are several treatments available, either to reduce snoring or correct the sleep apnea condition.  From simple oral appliances to advance surgery of the throat.  Managing something seemingly simple and common as snoring can actually increase your quality of health and give your partner a restful night of sleep.

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The first hospital in Indonesia with accreditation from Australian Council on Healthcare Standard International  (ACHSI)

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