16 Apr Why Am I Always So Tired?
Turns out, when it comes to snoring, it is far better to be on the receiving end than being the person gasping for breath. Even though it may not seem like it when you’re suffering another sleepless night while your partner happily snores away, your partner is probably in a much worse situation.
You can at least sleep in a different room and get some rest. For the person who constantly snores, they are not getting a good night’s sleep. The decreased oxygen reaching their lungs eventually wakes them up long enough so they can take a deep breath before falling asleep again. Depending on the severity of the problem, this cycle can happen dozens of times a night.
The lack of continuous sleep puts people at risk for a lot of health problems because while we are sleeping, our bodies are undergoing maintenance. For example, toxins are cleared from our brains, memories from the day are transferred to our long term memories, and certain growth hormones are produced*.
When our bodies cannot undertake these processes, we are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, memory impairment, sexual dysfunction or depression.
Snoring can be a sign that we are not getting the proper rest our bodies need to maintain itself. It occurs when air does not pass freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This air obstruction makes the surrounding tissues vibrate, producing the snoring sound.
People who snore often have too much floppy throat and nasal tissue that vibrates when lying on their back. The tongue can also get in the way of breathing when it rests against the back of the mouth during sleep.
Here are some factors that can increase your risk of snoring:
1) Obesity – increased fat tissue around the neck and throat puts pressure on the airway. The tongue also has fat tissue so it can further block the airway.
2) Smoking – possibly causing inflammation of the airway.
3) Alcohol before bedtime – even small doses will prevent the muscles at the back of the throat from opening the airway.
4) Sedatives and opioid-based medications – causes the muscles of the airway to become more flaccid and block the flow of oxygen into the lungs.
When the muscles in the throat block the airway during sleep, it is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). And one of the main signs of OSA is habitual snoring. OSA is a serious condition in which the obstruction of airflow is so complete that the snorer quits breathing for seconds at a time.
Do you have obstructive sleep apnea?
Most people snore sometimes, it does not mean every one of them has OSA. It is a specific diagnosis that examines the severity of the airway obstruction and how that disrupts your sleep pattern. The less oxygen that is inhaled due to airway obstruction, the more severe the OSA.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
There are two main categories of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea – behaviour modification and appliances.
1. Behaviour modification involves reducing snoring risk factors. Whether it is losing weight, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, sleeping on our sides instead of our backs, these practices can help reduce airway obstruction.
2. Appliances include oral appliances and CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines. CPAP machines deliver a stream of compressed air through the nasal cavity to the lungs and prevents obstruction of the airway. Oral appliances work by holding the lower jaw in a more forward position so the tissues at the back of the throat do not fully collapse over the airway.
Behaviour modification is usually recommended as a first option because there are few side effects to eating healthier and consuming less alcohol. When behaviour modification is not enough, then a patient with OSA will need an appliance.
At this time, CPAP machines are the best treatment available for OSA. The only problem with the CPAP machine is that people do not always wear them because they are a little cumbersome.
Oral appliances can be a good option for patients with OSA if they cannot tolerate using a CPAP machine. Oral appliances are generally recommended for mild OSA, but not medium to severe OSA.
There can be changes to the jaw and teeth with long term use of oral appliances because the appliances somewhat restrict natural jaw movements. Patients with existing jaw problems should not be using oral sleep appliances.
If you are considering using an oral sleep appliance, you should see your dentist to make sure it’s a treatment option for you and that the appliance will be fitted specifically for you.
Phuong Luu, DDS
* If your child snores regularly, it is extremely important to have their sleep assessed by a medical professional because children need quality rest for proper growth and development. This includes both cognitive and physical growth so it is important not to waste this precious development time.
In addition to snoring, some signs to look out for include: irritability, hyperactivity, overly emotional responses, frenzied talking and difficulty waking up in the morning. Everyone can be irritable or emotional at times, the time to act is when you notice this behaviour regularly in your child.