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When Snoring Isn't Harmless

March 04, 2016 at 12:39 PM

By Scott Geisler, MD, Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Sleep Medicine Specialist

Snoring. It’s just a harmless and silly part of everyday life. Right?

Snoring is no laughing matter. It may indicate obstructed breathing, meaning your breathing repeatedly starts and stops while you’re sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea, affecting close to 18 million Americans. It can happen to anyone, but it’s usually found in middle-aged and older adults who are overweight.

OSA occurs when your tongue falls against your soft palate, and soft palate and uvula press against the back of the throat, closing your airway and causing the telltale loud snoring. Left untreated, OSA can lead to debilitating daytime fatigue, headaches, irritability and depression. Over time, it can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes… The list goes on.

If you’re an OSA sufferer, your loud snoring might be interrupting your partner’s sleeping, reducing his/her quality of life. Plus, the fatigue, depression and irritability associated with your OSA might be interfering with your relationships. It’s a vicious cycle with a fairly simple solution.

If you think you might have OSA, you need to make an appointment with a Sleep Medicine specialist or Ear, Nose and Throat. Either specialty area will recommend a sleep study, which can be conducted at a sleep medicine lab or at home with special equipment.

>> Do you have questions about sleep studies? >>

If it is indeed OSA, your specialist will likely prescribe a preventative measure based on the severity:

  • “Positive Airway Pressure” device – Used in conjunction with a mask, these devices are used in cases of mild, moderate and severe OSA.

There are several different types:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – Constant fixed pressure through the airway.
  • Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) – Two levels of pressure through the airway.

• Oral Appliances – If you are diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA, you may benefit from an oral appliance. There are many different FDA-approved oral appliances for treatment of OSA and they can also help treat snoring.

Talk to family, friends and coworkers about OSA; given this disease is believed to affect an estimated 20-25% of all Americans, chances are you know several people treated successfully for OSA who can share their experiences with you.

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