Wife smiling, husband snoring

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Anyone who has ever spent a sleepless night with a noisy partner is well aware what snoring is all about.  Snoring can test the strength of any relationship, however,  understanding the cause of snoring can make it a little easier to manage.

Snoring is noisy breathing as a result of the nasal passageways and upper respiratory tract becoming partially or fully blocked.  When the obstruction causes breathing to stop during sleep at least 5 times every hour and for periods in excess of 10 seconds, it can suggest the presence of sleep apnea.  This can be an very risky condition that may cause the afflicted individual to literally die asleep.

Snoring triggered by sleep apnea is particularly noisy and can even disrupt the entire households.  Generally, the whole family can suffer right along with the snorer.

If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea, he or she will examine your nose and throat to look for obvious causes of obstructions, such as nasal polyps or an anatomical deviation.  This can be performed by an endoscopic examination or a CT scan. Once a preliminary diagnosis is conducted, you may be invited to attend a sleep laboratory to undergo sleep studies.

Sleep studies are made to monitor the changes in body processes during a period of normal sleep. During the study, doctors will use instruments to continuously monitor your body functions and take different measurements, including

* activity in the brain

* heart rate

* blood pressure

* movement of diaphragm and chest

* airflow in airways

If sleep apnea is diagnosed, you will be prescribed to abstain from alcohol use, and to avoid taking any medication intended to help you sleep.  If you are overweight, you may be advised to diet.   Just changing your position in bed and sleeping on your side may be all it takes to enhance the condition – and stop the snoring.

Several treatment alternatives are available for those with sleep apnea.  In general, treatments involve providing positive pressure ventilation, where air is steadily and continuously pumped through a tightly fitting nasal mask. The increase in air pressure helps to ensure the airway open, resulting in easier breathing and reduced snoring levels.

If self-help steps and positive air ventilation don’t bring the relief you require, you might consider surgical options.  Surgical procedures can involve removing enlarged adenoids and tonsils, or reconstructing the soft palate.

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of this condition, normally responds well to treatment. Central sleep apnea, where nerve or brain  damage may be present, is less responsive and may require drug therapies that act on the brain to stimulate breathing.

The snoring caused by sleep apnea is particularly  disruptive and very noisy. It sounds positively painful for the sufferer, as their reflexes cause them to take raspy, deep breaths every 10 minutes or so.  Sleep patterns are bothered both for the snorer, and for his or her partner.  Snoring due to sleep apnea can be dangerous both emotionally and medically, so it is important to seek medical treatment.

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Filed under: Sleep Apnea