Snoring And Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Often regarded humorously, snoring can be a difficult problem – both for patients and their bed partners. It is the sound made by the soft palate and uvula during inhalation. It occurs during sleep because of the way the throat muscles relax. Although snoring does come from the mouth, it can be made worse with nasal obstruction as this limits inward airflow. Patients are at risk if their oral cavity is small and crowded, if their uvula and palate are long, if they have large tonsils, or are obese.
Depending on the amount of redundant tissue, the throat may actually close during sleep, rather than just reverberate with snoring. We call this obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, oxygen levels fall. This can lead to significant strain on the lungs and heart, and may generate heart arrhythmias.
The evaluation of snoring related to obstructive sleep apnea starts with a full office otolaryngology head and neck exam with focus on the upper airway and digestive tract. Usually formal sleep study is recommended, which can offer definitive diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea a measure of its intensity.