2 What causes snoring?
3 When should I seek medical treatment for snoring?
Learn about what causes us to snore and the treatment options available in Singapore.
We all know what snoring sounds like. That unmistakable, repetitive noise coming from our sleeping partner drives all of us nuts. What’s snoring and why do we snore? Let us dive deeper into this very common problem.
Snoring is a noisy breathing which occurs while you sleep. When you doze off and go from light sleep to deep sleep, the muscles at the roof of your mouth, tongue and throat relax. These soft tissues can relax enough such that they partially block your airway. When air flows through this narrowed passage, it causes the relaxed soft tissues to vibrate. These repetitive vibrations then emit noise which we perceive as snoring.
The narrower your airway becomes, the more turbulent and forceful the airflow becomes. Also, soft tissues tend to become more floppy and loose with age. These factors increase the amplitude of tissue vibration, which causes your snoring to become louder.
Occasional snoring isn’t usually a serious problem as it is mostly an annoyance for your bed partner. However, if you’re a chronic snorer, your sleep may be fragmented and you deprive your partner of quality sleep too.
Snoring is also a very common symptom of a more serious problem such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you snore often or very loudly, you should seek medical help.
Snoring occurs when airflow through your upper airways is blocked. Several problems can interfere with airflow, such as:
Nasal congestion from allergic rhinitis, deviated nasal septum (crooked partition between nostrils), benign growths can all hamper the flow of air through the nose.
A long uvula (dangling tissue at the back of your mouth) and a thick, low soft palate can narrow your airway. This reduces airflow through your mouth during sleep.
Some people have enlarged tonsils and adenoids that make them snore.
Men are more likely to snore, but women snore too. It’s been estimated that up to 40% of men and 24% of women snore.
Obesity is a well known risk factor for snoring.
As we grow older, the airway muscles relax and the soft tissues start to lose collagen and loosen. These results in a narrower airway with lax tissues that are more likely to vibrate.
Alcoholic drinks and sedatives depress your central nervous system and further relax muscles that keep your airway open. This can lead to partial closure and collapse of your airway.
Is snoring giving you and your loved one grief? Have you tried to make some lifestyle changes but are still snoring like a Ferrari at night? Don’t despair. There are many ways to improve your snoring, such as the Fotona NightLase® therapy.
But the first step to solving your snoring woes is to be aware of the problem and know when you should seek medical help. Here are situations when you should seek medical help:
When this happens multiple times at night, your sleep is fragmented. In the long run, sleep deprivation is bad for your mental and physical health.
The loudest snore recorded is 120 decibels, as loud as a chainsaw. At high volumes, snorers certainly have the ability to wake themselves up at night.
Hence, you should definitely seek help if you’re woken up multiple times at night by your own snoring.
If your partner is constantly blaming you for disrupting their sleep, you should probably seek help.
Snoring strains relationships and leads to deep resentment among couples. The snorer often thinks that their partner is making a big fuss, while the non-snorer blames the snorer for poor sleep.
More couples are sleeping apart due to snoring, and some have even filed for divorce on grounds of their partner’s snoring, than ever before.
Snoring is often associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is a serious medical condition where patients stop breathing multiple times during sleep.
OSA can lead to many long term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Do watch out for following signs, which are suggestive of OSA when you:
If you or your partner observe the following signs, you should seek help as soon as possible.
People who suffer from OSA often feel lousy the next day, like they’ve not had a good night’s rest. The following symptoms are suggestive of OSA if you:
Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring or have any of the worrying signs and symptoms stated above. Your doctor will be happy to share with you the medical treatments available for snoring.
In summary, while some people dismiss snoring as something benign, it is a common enough problem the can impact the individual’s and partner’s health and relationship. This is especially so when the snorer also has underlying OSA.
If you or your partner snore, you are certainly not alone. Up to a third of Singaporeans have sleep disordered breathing, characterised by abnormal airflow during sleep.
It is one of the leading causes of insomnia which can lead to a whole host of relationship and health problems.
Thankfully, there are effective treatments for this very common problem.
We recommend trying out some lifestyle changes before seeing your doctor.
If after making the above lifestyle changes doesn’t improve your snoring, you may want to consider some of the following elective treatment options:
It uses a Er:YAG laser to gently warm tissues and promote the formation of new collagen. The end result is tighter soft tissues at the back of your mouth that keeps your airway open and helps you breathe better during sleep.
Each treatment is a 20-minute office procedure performed by a trained doctor. A course of NightLase® treatments consist of 3 treatments over a 6-week period.
Up to 90% of patients report an improvement in their snoring after completing a course of NightLase® treatments, and the beneficial effect can last up to a year. The treatment can be easily repeated if the patient starts to notice the effect wearing off.
Learn more about Fotona NightLase® here.
Oral appliances are dental mouthpieces that help to push forward the position of your jaw, tongue and soft palate. They are customised by your dentist to fit your mouth and work to keep your air passage open while you sleep.
You will have to work closely with your dentist and sleep specialist to ensure that it is working well for you. Visits every 6 months are necessary to ensure that it is still fitting well.
The main problem with oral appliances is discomfort. They have to be worn nightly and are only effective when worn properly.
Compliance rate is not high as discomfort often affects the sleep of the wearer. Moreover, excessive salivation, dry mouth and jaw pain are possible side effects from these devices.
Snorers commonly suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is a more serious condition where a patient experiences multiple episodes of stopping breathing while asleep. For those who suffer from OSA, CPAP is the gold standard treatment to improve their OSA.
Using a CPAP involves wearing a mask over your mouth or nose while you sleep. The mask is connected to a machine which pumps pressurised air through your airways to keep it open during sleep. This gush of air also improves snoring as the obstruction of airflow is reduced.
Although CPAP is the most effective method of treating OSA, some people don’t use it due to discomfort of the mask and pressurised air or noise from the machine.
Long term compliance rate of those using CPAP for OSA is only 60 – 70%. Moreover, those who suffer from snoring but do not have OSA do not need CPAP.
For example, the most radical procedure is called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), performed under general anaesthesia.
There are a variety of surgical procedures that are available to open the upper airway and reduce narrowing during sleep.
During the surgery, your surgeon tightens and excises excess tissues from the palate and your throat. There is a long recovery period of a few weeks with considerable pain and difficulty with swallowing.
Moreover, the recurrence rate of snoring a year after surgery is about 50%.
Other surgical options include:
The problems with surgical procedures are the cost, pain, downtime and the significant recurrence risk after some time.
The effectiveness of these techniques to improve snoring varies and the response is challenging to predict. They may also not treat generalised soft tissue laxity and floppiness which worsens with age.
Learn more about how you can improve your snoring. Consult with our doctors today!
[12 Nov 2020] Written by Dr. Kelvin Chua
Dr Kelvin Chua started his surgical training in Australia, teaching for several years in the hospitals, and spent time in dermatology and surgical rotations.
Over the course of 15 years, Kelvin has since performed more than 1,000 successful cases of liposuction procedures and Botox and filler treatments under his belt. With a keen interest in non-invasive facial contouring and lifting techniques as well as liposuction for body contouring procedures, he also performs HIFU, Thermage FLX, Fractional CO2 laser, Radiofrequency, hair loss management & treatment, as well as moles and lumps removal.
With a strong passion for inspiring others through teaching, Kelvin is a motivational speaker at Republic Polytechnic, an appointed trainer for aesthetic institutions and cosmeceutical companies, and is a mentor to aspiring aesthetic doctors.
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