Do you snore? Does your spouse or partner complain about it? You’re not alone. In fact, 25% of American adults are habitual snorers, making it a problem that affects millions of people each night. However, what many aren’t aware of is that chronic snoring can be more than just a nuisance. In some cases, it can actually threaten your life.
How Snoring Can Be Dangerous
Not all snoring is dangerous, but chronic snoring may be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea is a condition whereby an airway obstruction causes you to stop breathing for periods of time during sleep. This causes a lack of oxygen to reach the brain, reducing blood oxygen levels. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing 30 times or more per hour – that adds up to hundreds of pauses in breathing each night. As a result, sleep apnics often experience excessive daytime tiredness, as they spend more time in a light sleep struggling to breathe. Aside from sleepiness, the disorder can also create significant health problems, some of which may be life threatening if left untreated.
Factors That Cause Snoring & Sleep Apnea
Chronic snoring and sleep apnea can be attributed to a number of physical characteristics as well as behavioral and environmental factors — the causes vary from person to person. Physical factors such as a large tongue, deviated septum, thick soft palate or large uvula, and increased weight may contribute to airway obstruction. Other factors like consumption of alcohol or sleep aids before bedtime or having nasal congestion from allergies or a common cold can also play a role. A thorough examination from a sleep specialist is necessary in order to pinpoint the source of your individual condition.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
The following signs are red flags that may indicate a sleep apnea condition:
- Loud snoring with pauses in breathing – If your partner or roommate tells you that you snore excessively such that it interrupts their sleep, you may have a problem. This is especially worrisome if gasping, choking or pauses in breathing also occur.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness – If you are excessively tired during waking hours even though you’ve had “enough” sleep, this should raise a red flag. Even when you log enough hours of sleep on the clock, you won’t feel rested when you wake up because of frequent apnea episodes.
- Morning headaches – Sleep apnea episodes often result in regular morning headaches.
- Trouble concentrating – Drowsiness, low energy from lack of sleep and sleep deprivation can make it impossible to focus during the day, having a detrimental impact on your performance at work or school.
- Sore throat and/or dry mouth – If you frequently wake up with a sore throat and/or dry mouth, sleep apnea may be the culprit.
- Choking sensation – One of the signs of sleep apnea is that you choke or gasp as you fight for air while asleep. Although you may not wake up fully during these episodes, you should take note of any incidents where you awake feeling like you’re choking.
Interrupted sleep and headaches aren’t the only consequences of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can lead to serious health risks – including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke if left untreated. It can also significantly shorten your lifespan.
Find Out If You’re at Risk for Sleep Apnea
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any telltale signs of sleep apnea, find out what type of impact the problem is having by taking the following screening quizzes. The Snore Quiz and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale will help determine how severe your snoring is and whether you are at risk for sleep apnea.
If you believe you may be suffering from this serious condition, you should seek medical evaluation from a sleep specialist. If OSA is suspected, a sleep study (polysomnogram) may be recommended in order to make an official diagnosis.
Sleep Apnea Treatments in Atlanta
The Atlanta Snoring Institute offers a full range of treatment options that can minimize the symptoms or even cure the underlying causes of your sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, initial therapy can include continuous positive airway pressure treatment, also called CPAP. With CPAP, you wear a mask that blows air continuously to keep your airways open during sleep.
While CPAP is usually an effective treatment, many patients find the device uncomfortable to use and are non-compliant. Fortunately, at Atlanta Snoring Institute, we are known for our CPAP alternatives, including:
- Oral appliance therapy – If you find CPAP treatment difficult, noninvasive oral appliance therapy may provide similar assistance to keep your airway open during sleep without surgery.
- Minimally invasive and surgical options – Other minimally invasive options performed in the office like the Pillar Procedure, turbinate reduction, and base of tongue reduction with radio frequency may provide permanent relief from sleep apnea, no devices needed. All of these treatments allow you to return to work the same day,
Start Sleeping Better Tonight
Whether it’s sleep apnea or simply snoring, Atlanta Snoring Institute is here for you. With a variety of treatment options available, we help our patients sleep soundly without all the sound. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three office locations in the Atlanta area (Buckhead, Stockbridge and Fayetteville). A restful night’s sleep awaits you.