Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Don’t take snoring lightly! It can be the sign of an underlying serious disease!

Why do we snore?

  • Snoring is the loud sound produced by a person while sleeping.
  • It is caused when the air passage vibrates: this includes the palate, the uvula, the walls of the throat and the back of the tongue, as the tissues relax and become loose during sleep
  • One more reason is if there is turbulence in the nasal passages when air passes through them due to septal deviation, polyps, congestion of the nose from allergies, sinus disease, etc,
  • Enlarged Tonsils and adenoids are a major cause of snoring and mouth breathing in children
  • It can be loud enough to create a nuisance in public places and transport, disturb the sleep of the spouse and partner. It can be embarrassing for the snorer.
  • Snoring should be taken seriously. It is not healthy, neither is it funny. It could be the sign of a serious disease!
  • Sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain
  • Silent heart attacks can occur early in the morning due to sleep apnea

Sleep Apnea

What do you mean by Sleep Apnea?

  • Apnea means a sudden stoppage of breathing
  • During sleep the airway collapses and shuts down completely as above. At this point the breathing stops. This is known as sleep apnea.
  • After a few seconds the brain realizes that the oxygen levels are falling and it sends signals to the chest and abdomen to start moving to force the airway open. This produces a sudden snorting sound and the patient is awakened. However the patient may not be aware of this.
  • If this happens more than 5 times in an hour at night it is not healthy.
  • It hampers normal sleep cycle and the patient does not get proper 3 levels of sleep or REM sleep

How do we diagnosis sleep Apnea?

Proper History taking

  • The symptoms of sleep apnea are not feeling fresh on waking up, dryness of mouth, headache
  • Sleepiness during the day. Some patients can fall asleep suddenly while driving, reading, sitting comfortably, watching television. This can be dangerous
  • Lack of alertness determined by special tests
  • Frequent visits to the toilet at night
  • Weight gain in spite of following weight loss measures. This is a vicious cycle. Sleep apnea makes losing weight difficult. Being overweight makes belly fat more and tissues in the mouth loose which worsens the condition.

Polysomnography or sleep study

This is a study of changes occuring in the body during sleep

  • It can be done at home. Various channels are attached to the body as above, and recording is done of changes in the body during sleep overnight
  • It is simple and does not restrict sleep position or regular bedtime habits

Drug induced sleep endoscopy or DISE:

It is a short stay procedure done with a shot of anesthesia to make the patient sleep like normal sleep. Once the snoring starts, the flexible endoscope is inserted through the nose and recording of the changes in the airway during sleep can be seen. Fluttering of the palate, narrowing of the airway and different changes are recorded during sleep

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

CPAP machine: The primary treatment is the Continuous positive airway pressure machine or the CPAP machine

  • It blows air in the airway keeping it open during sleep . This stops it from collapsing and stopping the breathing. This significantly reduces the apnea
  • It is not addictive or does not cause damage to the body as commonly believed
  • It requires some time to get used to. A variety of masks are available and humidifiers are there to help the patient be more comfortable


Surgery helps in opening the airway and improving the breathing. It prevents collapse.

It is avoided in overweight people . Types of surgery are

  • Nasal surgery-septal , sinus and turbinate surgery to improve the airflow through the nose
  • palatoplasty
  • hyoid suspension and resection of the epiglottis
  • tongue base resection
  • tonsil and adenoid surgery in young children immediately relieves their problems. They can have weight gain, bed wetting and poor performance at school

Tongue holding devices and mandible repositoning devices also help. These are simple solutions.

Please consult your doctor for proper treatment and advice. The views on the website are for information only.

Published by allergy care

I am an ENT specialist practicing allergy for the last 5 years. feel free to contact me

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