As a snorer, you may for the most part be blissfully unaware of the problem you cause those trying to sleep near you. If, however, your bed partner’s sleep is disturbed on a regular basis and you find yourself sleeping downstairs or in the spare room, there are options.
Snoring is a major symptom of a serious medical condition called ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’. During sleep, the throat narrows, due to a reduction in muscle tone. Snoring is simply a vibratory noise generated by the back of the relaxed tongue, pharynx and soft palate. Further narrowing produces not only louder snoring, but also laboured inspiration (breathing in). Finally, further narrowing may cause complete airflow obstruction known as obstructive sleep apnoea.
There comes a point where the increased inspiratory effort is sensed by the sleeping brain and a transient arousal is provoked (brief awakening to breathe before returning to sleep). A few of these arousals do not really matter. However, when there are many (sometimes hundreds in one night), sleep becomes seriously fragmented, resulting in daytime symptoms of excessive sleepiness. Snoring and sleep apnoea are part of a spectrum extending from ‘benign’ or ‘simple’ snoring with no sleep disturbance, through to obstructive sleep apnoea with severe daytime sleepiness symptoms and the physiological consequences of recurrent asphyxia (insufficient oxygen).
What causes snoring and sleep apnoea?
The most common factors causing excessive snoring and sleep apnoea are shown below:
If one or more of these factors are present, you may find that you can successfully help yourself or your bed partner with simple lifestyle modifications. In many cases the manufacture of a dental appliance that keeps your jaw forward during sleep opens the airway sufficiently to reduce or even eliminate snoring.