Do loved ones constantly give you grief about your snoring? Do they complain about the nonstop sound, or the many interrupted nights of sleep your snoring has caused them?
Well, it’s time to take action.
What Really Causes Snoring?
The direct cause of snoring is vibration of the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. During sleep, the muscles around these structures may relax to the point that your lower jaw and tongue fall back, blocking your airway. A reduced airway causes the soft tissues to vibrate, i.e. snoring.
The possible underlying causes of snoring are many:
- Excess body weight
- Sleep apnea
- Use of drugs or alcohol
Any of these issues can lead to the relaxation of tissues in the mouth and throat, collapsing the airway to various degrees, thus resulting in snoring.
Very heavy snoring and delayed breathing (of up to 10 seconds or more) or choking may indicate a severe condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles and tongue collapse into the airways during sleep, blocking airflow. Once that airway becomes blocked, the person simply stops breathing until the brain senses mortal danger and finally signals a gasp for breath.
Individuals with mild obstructive sleep apnea experience 5–15 of these episodes per hour of sleep, while individuals with severe obstructive sleep apnea experience more than 30. All too often, the individual who gasps isn’t fully awakened and is completely unaware of what’s going on. Often their partner will give them the first indication that there’s a problem — by sleeping on the couch. With their sleep constantly being interrupted, individuals who suffer from OSA can go weeks, months, or even years without a truly deep, restful sleep.
Side Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Due to the serious cardiovascular threat it poses, sleep apnea should not be ignored. With so little oxygen in the blood, blood pressure quickly creeps upward because the heart has to work harder. Such nocturnal increases in blood pressure can lead to hypertension (chronic high blood pressure). The risk of having a stroke or sudden cardiac arrest soars: people with OSA are three times more likely to have a stroke than those without. In severe cases, OSA can trigger a heart attack in the middle of the night.
Fragmented sleep leads to sleepiness and chronic fatigue during the day — additional signals that OSA has been hard at work while its victim tried to rest. No wonder individuals with OSA are four to six times more likely to be involved in a car accident and are more likely to be injured at work. The stealth factor is high with OSA: symptoms may continue for years unnoticed as the person simply becomes conditioned to feeling tired all the time.
How to Stop Snoring and Treat Sleep Apnea
As many as 50 percent of people snore to some degree. Thankfully, most cases aren’t too serious and can be corrected with simple steps:
- Losing weight
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
- Using nasal strips or a humidifier while sleeping
And thankfully there is a very effective remedy for sleep apnea sufferers. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are a lifesaver to those struggling with obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine works by gently but continuously blowing pressurized air through the airway. The increased air pressure prevents the airway from collapsing when you breathe. When used as directed, it can immediately improve the quality of life for individuals with sleep apnea.
The CPAP machine will have one of the following attached to it:
- A mask that covers your nose and mouth, known as a full-face CPAP mask
- A mask that covers your nose only, called a nasal CPAP mask
- A mask that fits directly into the base of your nose, with e cushions that seal around your nostrils, known as a nasal pillows CPAP mask
You’ll likely notice less snoring, fewer breathing obstructions, and a decrease in daytime sleepiness — among other health benefits. Research has shown that CPAP therapy can reduce the risk of health problems linked with obstructive sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, depression, and cardiovascular issues.
Do you think you have obstructive sleep apnea? Here’s how to get started with CPAP therapy.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea or another form of disordered breathing, make an appointment to see your primary physician. He or she will evaluate your signs and symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist or for a sleep study. Depending on your symptoms and insurance guidelines, you may have an in-home sleep test or an in-lab test. Your physician will use the results of the study to determine whether or not to prescribe a CPAP machine. Yes, as a medical device, a CPAP machine requires a prescription.
Once you have had a study and your physician has written a prescription for a machine, you want to verify that your referral paperwork has been sent to our office. Once we receive your records we will verify that we have everything required to research your eligibility and coverage and bill your insurance policy. If prior authorization is required, we will take care of getting your insurance company everything needed for them to approve your equipment.
Once we have authorization, our very knowledgeable respiratory therapists will meet with you to discuss your sleep study, instruct you on CPAP machine usage, and fit you for a mask. They will follow up with you to fine-tune your settings and CPAP equipment so that you sleep comfortably.
Have questions? Talk to one of our specialists who can guide you through the process.