The noise made when you snore is the result of breathing being partially obstructed in some way. While snoring can be at the center of jokes around the house and with friends, it can also be a sign of something more serious. ENT physicians are uniquely qualified to help you figure out why you’re snoring and how to best treat this problem.
Common Causes Of Snoring
Snoring happens for a variety of reasons, but it’s most commonly due to your throat muscles relaxing, making your airway narrow during sleep. This obstructed or narrowed pathway causes the tissues in your throat to vibrate when breathing during sleep, producing that all too familiar noise. Other contributing factors are caused by problems in the structure of the nose, such as a deviated septum, swollen turbinates, nasal polyps, allergies, and chronic sinusitis.
A more serious cause is sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder. Sleep apnea happens when breathing is repeatedly reduced or stopped, then starts again.
- Large tonsils
- A cold
- Alcohol consumption before bed
- A “floppy” soft palate
- An elongated uvula
- A receding jaw
- Enlarged tongue
- Weight gain
Generally, one or more of these factors contributes to snoring, and your ENT doctor will be able to provide a thorough evaluation by assessing your symptoms.
Snoring doesn’t just disrupt others’ sleep, it can affect your own. Lack of sleep can lead to countless health problems, both physical and emotional. Symptoms vary due to the cause of your snoring, but they may include the following:
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat
- Restlessness during sleep
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain while sleeping
While snoring is likely more disruptive to those around you, you don’t necessarily want to ignore it yourself. If you experience the following symptoms, consult your ENT, as they may be signs of a more significant health problem.
- Waking up gasping or choking
- Snoring so loudly your partner can’t sleep
There are two types of treatment options, surgical and nonsurgical. Which is best for you will depend on the severity of your snoring, and that can be accurately determined by your ENT. Because snoring generally includes a combination of causes, it may be necessary to make multiple lifestyle changes to successfully address the issue.
Noninvasive forms of treatment:
- Avoiding alcohol or other sedatives before sleeping
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Clearing nasal passages with a hot shower, neti pot, or nasal strips
- Sleeping on your side
Surgical treatments are all focused on clearing your airway obstruction. Procedures like treatment of a deviated septum or a tonsillectomy may be recommended. Others focus on reducing the vibrations of the palate and uvula by hardening the palate. Most procedures are quick and have high success rates.
Common surgical forms of treatment:
- Injection snoreplasty: This is a 5- to 10-minute procedure done at your physician’s office while under anesthesia. It creates scarring of the soft palate through a breakdown of the tissues via a chemical injected into the soft palate. The scarring makes for a firmer base and decreases the vibrations that lead to snoring. Recovery time is generally two weeks.
- Pillar procedure: This is a 20-minute procedure done at your physician’s office while under anesthesia. It can be used to treat snoring as well as moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Small polyester rods are placed in the soft palate to harden the tissues, reducing the vibrations that cause snoring. Because no tissue is removed, pain is minimal.
- Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD): A MAD helps reduce snoring by moving the jaw into a forward position while you sleep. Pushing the lower jaw forward helps expand the airway, reduce snoring, and reducing the number of breathing pauses during sleep.