About 45% of adults snore occasionally, and 25% snore every night. Snoring can be a problem when it interferes with the sleeping habits of your partner and you, and snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that can cause health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Risk factors for both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea include being male, weight gain, race and ethnicity, and the natural aging process that affects everyone (not just the elderly). The size and position of many structures of the head and neck often have important effects on the risk of developing snoring and sleep apnea. Typically, the snoring sound comes from the back of the roof of the mouth (soft palate and uvula), but successful treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is much more complex than just focusing on that one area. Different patients have different causes. It is critical to identify the causes and develop personalized treatment plans.
Individuals who snore are often told by others, but that is not always the case. Individuals with loud snoring or other signs/symptoms like sleepiness or fatigue should have a sleep study. A sleep study can be performed in a sleep laboratory or at home, and it serves multiple purposes: establishing a diagnosis (snoring vs. sleep apnea) and directing appropriate treatment (different for the two conditions).
Conservative treatments include weight loss, sleeping while lying on one’s side or stomach, and avoiding alcohol or other sedating medications within 3 hours before going to bed. Surgical treatment must be directed at the areas that are responsible for snoring and airway narrowing or complete obstruction. A wide range of procedures is available to stop snoring. Oral appliances represent another treatment option. Not all patients are ideal candidates for any treatment, which is why we have performed research focused on accurate identification of the cause of snoring and selection of treatments that will improve or stop snoring.
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines can help regulate your breathing, and mouth guards or other oral devices are designed to push the jaw forward slightly while you sleep, clearing your airways enough to allow for normal breathing.
For detailed discussions of snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, and treatment options, please see www.sleep-doctor.com, a website developed by Eric J. Kezirian, MD, MPH of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Dr. Kezirian discusses the latest developments in the field on his blog.
Department of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery
University of Southern California
1520 San Pablo Suite 4600
Los Angeles, CA 90033