Is snoring becoming a problem in your life? Is it yourself who is snoring so loud, your partner or someone you live with and it’s affecting your sleep by keeping you awake at night?
At Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital, consultant Mr George Murty, ENT Surgeon, talks about the possibilities as to why people snore and what you can do about it, to stop snoring in the future and improve your sleep pattern for you and your family members/household.
How many people snore?
More than you might think. Between the ages of 30 and 35, one fifth of men snore whilst only 5% of women snore. The figures get much higher as we get older however and by the age of 60, the majority of men snore (60% and 40% of women snore).
Is it mainly people who are overweight who snore?
That is a common perception but surprisingly many thin people snore and can find it has a severe impact on their daytime functioning.
What is it that causes snoring?
Apart from weight, features such as neck size, lifestyle (smoking, alcohol) and the shape of the airway can all affect snoring patterns. Don’t forget that any point from the tip of the nose down to the windpipe can cause snoring if it is narrow enough. All patients are advised to undergo an airway endoscopy as part of a sleep study as looking at the airway may identify a problem requiring surgery.
If I lose weight will that stop the snoring?
Studies have shown that in people who are severely overweight a drastic reduction in weight does lead to improved breathing at night and a reduction in obstructive sleep apnoea.
What is obstructive sleep apnoea?
There is a range of snoring from the very mild occasional snorer through to the worst – the snorer with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA occurs when breathing stops completely for 10 seconds or more when asleep. Most people with OSA do this more than once during a night’s sleep. It usually means that the airway has completely collapsed and until the brain starts waking up no air moves. Quite often the partners of snorers will describe this as very frightening and jostle their partners to start them breathing again.
Are there things that will make my snoring worse?
Alcohol, extreme tiredness, sleeping on your back and smoking can all make snoring worse.
How do I know if my snoring is a problem?
There are some obvious features of snoring that presents problems such as a partner or other family member complaining about the noise. This may be severe enough to cause couples to sleep in separate rooms. Additionally to the stress this places on relationships, there are also health issues. Snoring may not be severe enough to cause Obstructive Sleep Apnoea but it can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness due to the poor quality of sleep this produces. This can be a particular problem for those whose job involves operating machinery or driving. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is worse still. OSA sufferers have an increased risk of many health problems including heart attacks, strokes, headaches, sexual impotence and high blood pressure. Unfortunately, it can also lead to depression, impaired intellectual function and motor vehicle accidents.
What can be done about snoring?
There are simple measures that can be taken in the first instance such as cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking and losing weight. Weight reduction can be difficult though for snorers who are already tired through lack of refreshing sleep and do not feel they have the energy to exercise and therefore eat more to try and regain their energy. There are many products on the market from chin straps to electric shock devices, all of which are designed to improve snoring. Some work and some don’t and invariably one size doesn’t fit all. A certain amount of trial and error is therefore involved in getting a contraption to work for you and this can be expensive (not to mention uncomfortable. If alcohol reduction, smoking cessation and weight loss are not enough it is worthwhile getting a diagnosis from a specialist doctor as to:-
A) How bad the problem is.
B) Where the problem is.
C) What can be done about it.
What does a snoring assessment consist of?
Initially, there is a consultation with a medical consultant experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. A history of the problem will be taken together with any medical complaints which may be affecting it. You will be given a sleep disorders questionnaire to complete. Following an examination, the consultant will discuss necessary investigations with you after which he will go through the results with you. He will be able to tell you how bad, or not so bad, the problem is, what, if anything, needs to be done about it, and what does it involve. Rather than trial and error, this system allows a much better appraisal of what the problem is and how best to treat it.
What surgical treatments are there?
The most important factor is the identification of the anatomical point at which obstruction is occurring. To achieve this accurately the consultant is most likely to measure a variety of factors when you are asleep naturally using a device known as a sleep apneograph. Once the site of the problem has been identified it may be surgically correctable using a variety of surgeries including laser, cautery assisted palatal probes, radio frequency ablation, injection and palatal implants. Surgical techniques are essential to widen the air passage and/or stiffen the walls to keep the air passage open.
Mr George Murty works at the Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital on Tuesday evenings. To find out more about Mr Murty and what he specialises in, please click here or call 0330 131 1416 to speak to a member of our team.
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