If someone in your house snores, you know all about its sound — how it can thunder, or wheeze; how it seems to get past anything you do to block out the sound.
Despite your best efforts, it can keep you up seemingly all night. But do you know what causes snoring? And do you know that it might be linked with the potentially deadly condition called sleep apnea?
Here’s a brief guide to snoring and its links to sleep apnea.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by an airway that narrows at night when you sleep. During the day, gravity and alert muscles help keep your airway open. But when you go to sleep, you lie down and gravity starts to pull your throat closed. Your muscles relax when you sleep, letting the airway sag.
Air flows easily through an open airway. When your airway narrows, though, the air flow can become turbulent. Think of putting your thumb over a garden hose or partially kinking it. The smooth flow of water becomes rough. It’s similar to pouring water from a jug where the opening isn’t big enough, though that’s a slightly different phenomenon.
The turbulent flow of air causes the tissues of your airway to vibrate. These vibrations are what you hear as the sound of snoring.
How Snoring Is Linked To Sleep Apnea
Sometimes your airway doesn’t just narrow, but closes entirely. This cuts off your breathing. When this happens, we call it sleep apnea.
For many people, snoring happens before they experience sleep apnea: the airway narrows, then it closes.
Most people with sleep apnea snore, but snorers don’t necessarily have sleep apnea. How can you tell if your snoring is linked to sleep apnea?
Signs You Have Sleep Apnea:
Not all snoring links to sleep apnea. The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea is to get a sleep test, which can usually be done in the comfort of your home.
However, if you have any of the following signs, getting a sleep test is urgent.
1. Your Snoring is Loud. Numerous studies have confirmed that the louder your snoring, the more likely you are to have sleep apnea. This is in part because your throat is most likely to be the part of the airway that collapses in sleep apnea.
When the throat narrows and vibrates in snoring, it tends to be loud and deep. This is also why those nasal strips don’t help your snoring--they’re only good at opening your nasal passages.
2. Your Snoring Ends in Gasping or Choking. Another key sign that snoring is linked to sleep apnea is if your snoring tends to end in gasping or choking. This shows that the airway has gone from narrowed to closed. It stays closed long enough that your brain senses an oxygen shortage and has to awaken to resume breathing.
3. You Have Sleep Apnea Symptoms: Although sleep apnea happens while you’re asleep, it has many symptoms that you will experience throughout the day. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Waking up feeling unrested after a full night’s sleep, or waking up with a headache
- Feeling excessively sleepy during the day and needing extra caffeine to stay awake in the afternoon
- Dozing off at work, while watching TV, or while driving
- Irritability or memory loss
- Decreased interest in things you used to enjoy, including sex
- Difficulty concentrating
Often, doctors might confuse some of these symptoms with other conditions and may diagnose you with hypothyroidism, low testosterone, or depression. However, your symptoms won’t truly resolve until you get treatment for the root cause: sleep apnea.
Get Sleep Apnea Treatment at Kuhn Dental Associates
Before starting treatment, Dr. Mandy Grimshaw will help you get a sleep test, either with a home sleep test or a test in a sleep lab, depending on your condition. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, Dr. Grimshaw can help you get sleep apnea treatment with an oral appliance.
Dr. Grimshaw is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. She has over 10 years of experience in oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea and has taken post-graduate courses on sleep apnea treatment and diagnosis. Sleep apnea treatment often benefits from a team approach.
As necessary, Dr. Grimshaw may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT)or pulmonary specialist for additional treatment or diagnosis.
If you think you might have sleep apnea or are looking for an alternative to CPAP, call (910) 218-9661 for an appointment at Kuhn Dental Associates.