Ask the Doctor: The Dangers of Snoring
Snoring is so common we often think of it as normal. But snoring can actually be a symptom of a serious condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Nicholas Sanito, DO, explains why snoring can be dangerous to your health, and what you can do to get the rest you need.
Q: What causes snoring?
Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. Occasional snoring is usually not very serious and is mostly a nuisance for your bed partner. However, people whose airways become totally blocked will follow loud snoring with brief periods of silence, which can mean they are not breathing. Very loud, consistent snoring is usually an indication of sleep apnea and should be investigated.
Q: How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?
OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. During a sleep apnea episode, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp, snort or body jerk.
Q: Why is sleep apnea dangerous?
People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain — and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen. The lack of oxygen can raise the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Chronic daytime sleepiness is another serious effect of sleep apnea.
Q: What can I do to stop snoring?
The first step is to contact a sleep specialist. Treatment options depend on the severity of the problems found, and may include use of a CPAP machine or an oral appliance made by a dentist to move your jaw forward and open your airway. Other options may include surgery. If you or someone you know snores loudly on a regular basis, contact the Sleep Evaluation Center at Aiken Regional Medical Centers at 803-641-5370 for more information.
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