Snoring can be an annoyance, often more for the partners than the snorers themselves. However, snoring is a symptom of a potentially dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Don’t ignore snoring when it’s frequent, loud, and accompanied by gasps and observable breathing stoppages, classic signs of OSA. Visit Dr. Scott Bateman and his team at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat to investigate your snoring symptoms.
A common sleep disorder
OSA is the most common breathing disorder associated with sleep. While there are other forms of sleep apnea, most people who suffer breathing interruptions at night have OSA, characterized by loud and erratic snoring interspersed with periods of breathing stoppages.
While your brain will wake you enough to restart breathing, it’s a process that can happen many times in a single night, interrupting the deeper phases of sleep and keeping you from getting the restful sleep your body needs to function.
Snoring occurs because of a narrowing of the airway at the rear of your mouth. As you breathe, air velocity increases at this spot, the same way a river may form rapids when its banks constrict the water’s flow.
Sleep is all about relaxation, and it’s relaxation of tissue in the throat that leads to OSA problems. As you fall asleep, tissue in the area of the soft palate relaxes and starts to collapse, further constricting airflow. If you have OSA risk factors, there may be other restrictions to this airway, enough to completely block your breathing temporarily. These risk factors include:
- Getting older: chances of OSA increase until you reach your 60s when it begins to level off
- Gender: men are more susceptible to OSA than women
- Extra pounds: being overweight can add to fat deposits in the upper airway
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Family history and genetics
After menopause, women have an increased risk of OSA, perhaps due to changes in the way their bodies store fat.
Complications of OSA
The secondary problems associated with OSA can be threatening to your health in several ways. Perhaps the first health challenge to emerge is fatigue and concentration problems through the day, even though it seems like you had enough sleep. This can be a serious health threat to drivers or people who operate heavy machinery.
Your heart health is also threatened by OSA. When your breathing stops, blood oxygen levels drop dramatically, placing a strain on your heart. OSA often leads to high blood pressure as a result, which in turn elevates your risk of heart disease and arrhythmia.
You may be at increased risk of other health problems, including glaucoma, diabetes, mood disorders, heart attack, and stroke. Medications and anesthesia that cause further tissue relaxation could make pain relief or surgery more difficult due to the potential worsening of OSA.
There are treatments available for OSA, ranging from simple oral appliances to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) systems. Contact Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat by phone or online to arrange a consultation with Dr. Bateman. Catching OSA early gives you the best chance to avoid its complications. It’s never a good idea to ignore snoring.