We have all seen or heard them, the ads for nasal strips, mouth guards and who hasn’t heard Jimmy from ZYPPAH on XM radio. Cheap and easy claims to a more restful night’s sleep without the snoring partner in bed or down the hall, but before you jump on line and purchase the cheap and easy fix to what you think is a simple problem. Take just a few minutes to read a little more as I break down snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) for you.
Roughly 50% of the population snores nightly or at times throughout their life. The snore sound heard comes from the back of the airway due to excess tissue and resistance in the airway which cause vibration of that soft tissue. Age, weight, Alcohol, body position all play a part in whether someone snores and when. The key here is understanding if it is snoring or could it be a more serious issue, OSA?
OSA affects more than 80 million Americans and over 70% are undiagnosed. What is OSA and what are the potential risks of having OSA. Similar to snoring, OSA involves excess tissue in the airway. As the human body drifts off to sleep the airway will relax just like the muscles in the body with deeper and deeper sleep the airway becomes more relaxed. Eventually that excess tissue will obstruct the airway either partially or completely and prevent much needed oxygen from defusing into the blood stream and feeding the body and brain. It is a process that will wreak havoc on your body, causing high heart rates, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, headaches, weight gain, memory problems, acid reflux and lack of energy in the short term. Over time these issues will become exacerbated and will lead to more complex health issues such as obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, stroke and possible early death.
Now that we understand the difference between snoring and a more serious issue, OSA. How do we know which is which and what are the treatment options? Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean you have OSA. A mild occasional nightly snore or a continuous snore throughout the night probably isn’t something to worry about. However, if snoring is combined with notable pauses in breathing and then a gasp or choking sound. Then you should be concerned and seek medical advice and or testing for OSA. The important message here is that these over the counter snoring devices that you see and hear being advertised might help with snoring but they will not treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. No matter what your friends say or the advertisement’s say, they will not treat OSA. You will only be masking the underlying issue and doing yourself a disservice. There are devices on the market to treat OSA but they do require sleep studies and visits to a dentist to be fitted for a device and ongoing adjustments. Something else to keep in mind, oral devices designed to treat snoring and OSA are only effective if you have mild to moderate sleep disorder breathing. If you are diagnosed as moderate to severe then your options are going to be CPAP (continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or surgery. It’s just not a simple fix and it can be costly but why would you want to be cheap when it comes to your health.
The bottom line here is that if you suspect yourself or someone else of snoring and possible OSA, then testing is highly recommended at either a sleep center or through home sleep apnea testing and be sure to seek the advice of a board-certified sleep specialist for treatment options.