Snoring: Nuisance or Serious Problem?
If snoring is keeping you up at night, you are not alone. About half of all people snore at some point in their lives. It is more common among men and those who are overweight, but snoring is a problem of both genders. Snoring appears to run in families and usually becomes more serious as people age. Not only can it affect your daytime function but it can lead to hypertension, heart disease, mood and memory problems, and even death.
But what really causes people to snore? People who snore may suffer from poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, excessive bulkiness of throat tissue, a long soft palate and/or uvula, or obstructed nasal airways.
“While you sleep, the muscles of your throat relax, your tongue falls backward, and your throat becomes narrow and floppy,” said M. Salah Lababidy, M.D., board certified pulmonologist and medical director of the Silver Cross Sleep Disorders Center. “As you breathe, the walls of the throat begin to vibrate – generally when you breathe in, but also, to a lesser extent, when you breathe out. These vibrations lead to the characteristic sound of snoring. The narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder your snoring. Sometimes the walls of the throat collapse completely so that it is completely occluded, creating a condition called obstructive sleep apnea.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million adults have sleep apnea. It can be diagnosed with a thorough exam from a pulmonologist or otolaryngologist – ear, nose, throat, head and neck (ENT) surgeon. This may be followed up with a sleep study to determine the severity of the sleep apnea and course of treatment. Common forms of treatment include continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) that gently blows air into the airway to keep it open while you sleep; dental appliances to reposition the jaw and tongue; nerve stimulation, and outpatient surgery.
For those patients who choose or require surgery, Dr. Sung Chung, M.D., board certified otolaryngologist on staff at Silver Cross Hospital and fellowship trained in head and neck surgery, is experienced in a variety of techniques to alleviate snoring and treat sleep apnea such as:
- Tonsillectomy if the tonsils are obstructing the airway
- Repose® Procedures to surgically stabilize the tongue and stop it from collapsing to towards the back of throat
- Coblation® Soft Palate Treatment to reduce the incidence of snoring without the discomfort and inconvenience associated with traditional surgery
- Pillar Procedure® in which three tiny implants are placed to stiffen the soft palate to reduce tissue vibration that can cause snoring and sleep apnea.
“Although CPAP is approximately 95% effective in curing sleep apnea, the compliance rate is only 40-45%,” said Dr. Chung. “With the advent of quick, minimally invasive procedures such as the Repose procedures, 75-90% of patients can be cured of sleep apnea when performed in conjunction with palate and nasal surgery. Of course, every patient’s situation is different. We work together to find the best treatment for his or her condition and lifestyle.”