When zzz Spells Trouble: Snoring May Be a Sign of a Sleep Disorder

If you were to walk through a quiet residential street in the middle of the night, you might hear snoring coming from four out of every ten houses in Boone. Snoring is extremely common, and while it’s often harmless – except for the person lying next to the snorer, tossing and turning because they can’t get a good night’s rest – it can sometimes indicate the presence of a sleep disorder that can have serious consequences on your long-term health.

Why Do We Snore?

woamn sleeping

Snoring occurs when tissue in the airway vibrates as we breathe during sleep. It is often the result of a physical obstruction; anatomy can play a role – a large uvula or deviated septum may cause the tissue to sag and block the airway passages, particularly around the tonsils and roof of the mouth. Allergies and viral infections may also inflame the tissue, causing it to become loose and floppy. Those most likely to snore are male, overweight and over the age of 40.

Not all snoring is harmful, but there are certain signs to watch for that might indicate an underlying health condition.

Signs of an Underlying Condition

It’s important to pay attention to the sounds you make when snoring. Since this is extremely difficult to do when you are asleep, it’s best to enlist the aid of a spouse or bed partner. Chances are, they are already all too familiar with your snoring habits!

Snoring that is steady, light and rhythmic snore in nature is common and typically harmless. Loud and erratic snoring, on the other hand, is an indication that something else is going on – especially if it grows louder and louder before suddenly coming to a stop. This is often accompanied by choking or gasping, which may or may not awaken the snorer. These are telltale signs of a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is not to be taken lightly. It is a growing concern not just in the U.S., but worldwide. An estimated 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder of some sort; between 3-7 percent of men and 2-5 percent of women experience sleep apnea. This disorder poses a serious risk to your physical health; it causes reduced oxygen flow in the bloodstream, eventually leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Individuals with sleep apnea in Boone stop breathing periodically throughout the night. These breathing cessations can last as long as ten seconds and may occur several hundred times during the night. This prevents them from receiving quality sleep and, as a result, leads to daytime fatigue and memory and concentration problems. Work performance and personal relationships can suffer. People with sleep apnea have a higher risk of being involved in an automobile accident because falling asleep at the wheel is a very real problem.

Oftentimes, Boone residents with sleep apnea are oblivious to their condition. Other than feeling exhausted during the day, there are few obvious signs of sleep apnea. Dry mouth and morning headaches are common, but it usually takes a sleeping partner to alert them to their condition.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your treatment options will probably include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves wearing a mask hooked up to a machine that delivers light bursts of pressure while you sleep to keep your airway open. It’s an effective treatment for a majority of sleep apnea sufferers, but the apparatus can take some getting used to. Some people are helped by oral appliances, nasal breathing strips or surgery.

If you snore frequently and your partner has witnessed you gasping for breath, schedule an appointment with a Boone ear, nose and throat specialist. They’ll order you a sleep study and, based on your results, come up with a solution to stop your snoring and improve your overall health.