What Causes Snoring?
As you sleep, your throat and mouth muscles naturally relax and expand, making your airway smaller. If your breathing becomes too constricted, your reflexes kick in, your jaw drops and you automatically breathe through your open mouth. Snoring sounds occur when forced air passes through the restricted passageway and vibrates the soft tissues in the back of the throat. The more you gasp and struggle for breath, the louder sounds you make — similar to a powerful wind gusting through a window crack.
- Swollen nasal tissues caused by genetics, allergies, illness or injury.
- Dry and irritated airway caused by smoking, arid climate or forced-air heating.
- Over-relaxed muscles caused by medications, relaxants and alcohol near bedtime.
- Extreme dry throat caused by overuse of mouth washes, rinses, syrups and recreational beverages containing high alcohol, a drying agent.
- Constricted nasal passages caused by excess fat in the mouth and throat.
- Sleep apnea, a serious medical condition that results in breathing cessation during sleep.
Is Snoring More Than Just a Nuisance?
Yes. Emphatically, yes. Snoring can definitely be a nuisance. But at its worst, snoring can negatively impact your sleep and physical and mental health and relationships.
Snoring and Sleep Loss
During uninterrupted, quality sleep, your body repairs damage to itself caused by illness, injury and the daily effects of living. Without time to restore and rebuild, your body is more susceptible to health problems.
Take a look at this abbreviated list of the health impacts of sleep deprivation.
- Cognitive functions, such as memory and complex and rational thought, can become impaired.
- Compromised immune and endocrine systems can aggravate or trigger conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
- Alertness and motor control can be significantly reduced.
- Emotions, such as stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, nervousness and depression, can increase dramatically.
Snoring and Medical Conditions
It is estimated that 30% to 50% of us snore regularly. Almost all of us snore at some point. But when snoring becomes a chronic condition, it can have debilitating, potentially fatal health consequences, such as those in this brief list.
- In a recent study on the health impacts of snoring, loud snorers were found to have 40% increased probability for hypertension, 34% increased probability for heart attack and 67% increased probability for stroke than people who did not snore.
- Persistent oxygen deprivation can create a chain of events leading to stroke. The lack of sufficient, steady oxygen causes high blood pressure, which damages the carotid arteries. The damaged carotid arteries, located on each side of the neck, cannot efficiently deliver oxygen to the brain. Instead, plaque containing cholesterol and calcium build up within the arteries and restrict blood flow to the brain. This can result in stroke. In a study conducted by the University of California School of Dentistry, 21% of men who snore were found to have hardened blockages in their carotid arteries.
- Snorers are more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious medical condition that occurs when the throat muscles collapse and breathing stops. Apnea is “a cessation of airflow for at least 10 seconds.” During sleep, someone with OSA can have dozens or even hundreds of episodes an hour. An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.
OSA has been linked to:
- Cardiac failure, including an increased risk of sudden cardiac death during sleep
- Coronary occlusion
- High beat irregularity
- Erectile dysfunction
- Mental impairment
Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer’s Disease
The lack of oxygen to the brain caused by sleep apnea can have very serious ramifications. Along with potential risks like sudden cardiac death, depression, weight gain, heart disease and insomnia, sleep apnea has also recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. According to new studies published in a leading neurology journal, researchers have found that shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality are associated with an increased deposition of the amyloid proteins in the brain. Increased amyloid protein is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease — in higher concentrations, this protein destroys nerve cells associated with memory and processing thoughts.
Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating to the person affected, as well as loved ones. With this new research establishing a potential link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease, it makes it even more important to have any signs of sleep apnea checked out as quickly as possible. If you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, we can provide treatment to improve sleep quality and reduce risks to your health and livelihood. Please contact our office for more information.
Snoring and Relationships
Chronic sleep loss can test the best of relationships — especially if one or both of you snore. Sleeping in separate bedrooms might be a temporary fix. But many counselors agree that a couple’s intimate, bedtime activities keep a relationship healthy.
The partner who opts to sleep in the same bed with a snorer can have health impacts, as well. Snoring is not contagious, but a non-snoring bed partner can experience poor quality or loss of sleep that can lead to the same health hazards as those of a snorer.
Snoring & Sleep Apnea Treatments Available in Totowa, New Jersey
Dental orthotics, similar in appearance to night guards, are oral appliances worn during sleep to prevent snoring. Each orthotic is custom molded to the contours of the snorer’s palate. When worn during sleep, their precise form anchors the soft tissues of the mouth and throat in place and gently holds the jaw in place. This prevents the soft tissues from expanding during sleep and obstructing the airway.
Dental orthotics are a non-surgical alternative for treating snoring problems, including sleep apnea. Dental orthotics are less expensive and more comfortable than the CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) device, a medical appliance resembling an oxygen mask that is used to treat sleep apnea. Many patients have been successfully treated by wearing dental orthotics at night.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring FAQ
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a sleep specialist after a sleep evaluation. The evaluation may involve an overnight sleep study during which your breathing patterns, brain activity, blood oxygen levels and heart rate are monitored while you sleep.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
One of the principal symptoms of sleep apnea is loud, constant snoring. Other symptoms include the following:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Pauses in breathing while sleeping
- Gasping or choking for air while sleeping
- Morning headaches
- Poor concentration
- Depression, irritability or moodiness
- Dry mouth
- Abrupt awakenings throughout the night
Who is most at risk of sleep apnea?
Risk factors for sleep apnea include excess weight (i.e., being overweight or obese), smoking, having a family history of sleep apnea, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and using muscle relaxers or sedatives. Men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women.
How many times do those with sleep apnea stop breathing in a night?
Someone with sleep apnea can stop breathing hundreds of times in a single night.
What is the traditional treatment for sleep apnea?
In the past, a lot of patients with sleep apnea wore continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machines. These machines consist of a small mask worn over the face while sleeping that helps keep the airway open. However, CPAP machines have been criticized as bulky and uncomfortable to wear. They can also be hard to transport while traveling. A smaller, more comfortable and more portable option is wearing an oral appliance that keeps the airway open while sleeping.
Where can I get an oral appliance for my sleep apnea?
Dr. Jerry M. Strauss provides oral appliances for sleep apnea at Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are interested in being fitted for a custom appliance, please schedule a consultation today.
Can sleep apnea go away by itself?
No, sleep apnea does not typically resolve on its own.
What happens if sleep apnea is left untreated?
Left untreated, sleep apnea can have significant consequences on quality of life and general health. A chronic lack of restful sleep can increase the risk of getting in a workplace or motor-vehicle accident. It can also make you moody, anxious or even depressed. And your risk of serious diseases — including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke — can increase.
Can sleep apnea shorten your life?
Some studies suggest that untreated sleep apnea can reduce life expectancy.
Can weight loss cure sleep apnea?
Losing weight will not cure sleep apnea, but it may have a positive effect in some cases. For example, some people with sleep apnea have excess weight around the neck, which puts pressure on the airway and causes the airway to narrow or become blocked during sleep. In that scenario, losing weight could be beneficial to the patient.
Can dieting cure sleep apnea?
Dieting cannot cure sleep apnea, but following a healthy diet may lead to weight loss that takes pressure off the airway.
Dr. Strauss is trained in neuromuscular dentistry, which focuses on the position of the teeth and jaw as well as the activity of the muscles that control the jaw. Talk to Dr. Strauss and his professional team at Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey about creating an anti-snoring, sleep-solution plan using dental orthotics. Dr. Strauss is a certified dentist trained in neuromuscular dentistry and serving Totowa, New Jersey, and Essex County patients. Contact our office at 973-227-8998.
*American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008, March 1). Snoring Linked to Cardiovascular Disease, Increased Health-care Utilization.