Snoring is a common sleep disorder, often considered as a habit that may be annoying for the partner or other family members. However, it can be related to a more serious condition like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While there are various treatments available for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea the best one is decided based on the individual condition. What is the treatment for snoring? Does CPAP help stop snoring? These are some of the frequently asked questions. Let us understand this in detail.
What is Snoring?
Before we move on the understand if CPAP helps stop snoring, it is necessary to know what snoring is and its related conditions. Snoring is a loud, harsh or grunting sound made by a person when sleeping. When a person is sleeping, the air passage is obstructed by surrounding tissues, which are enlarged or relaxed, due to various reasons. During respiration, as the air flows through the obstructed air passage, the tissues vibrate, which produces these harsh sounds.
Snoring is common and almost everyone may snore at some point or the other. Certain sleeping positions may increase the chances of snoring. When you sleep on your back, the effect of gravity plays an important role; also the tongue and the soft palate muscles get relaxed. The relaxed rear end of the tongue may collapse, thus obstructing the air passage. This causes snoring, due to which most people produce sounds when sleeping. Sleeping on the sides often reduces snoring and may not affect much.
However, for some people, snoring may be a bigger problem and can trouble more than in others. The tongue may collapse often and obstruct the airways. Excessive weight gain around the neck and upper body, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, upper respiratory problems, facial or oral abnormalities, inflamed parts around the throat, use of medicines like muscle relaxants or other medical factors may increase the risk of snoring. Just like sleeping position, age and male gender also raise the chances of snoring. Children often experience snoring due to swollen tonsils and adenoids, craniofacial birth deformities and obesity. While there are various causes of snoring, it can also be an indication of a serious medical condition, hence it must be evaluated and treated in time if needed.
How Can Snoring Affect Your Health?
Snoring is not just an annoyance with harsh sounds during sleep. It is a result of obstruction of the air passages, which produces these sounds. Hence, if the obstruction of air passages continues for long, it can cause harmful effects on health. When the air passages are obstructed during sleep, apart from snoring, the ventilation in the airways is affected. It can result in decreased ventilation called hypopnea or even a complete absence of ventilation, called apnea.1 It appears as if the person has completely stopped breathing. This makes the person wake up from sleep with a loud noise, as the brain is the trigger for lack of adequate oxygen supply. Once the person is aroused by the trigger, the breathing again continues and so does the sound of snoring. This condition is called sleep apnea, which is a common condition related to people who snore.
Some of the long terms health effects of snoring and sleep apnea include are related to lack of adequate sleep due to the arousal mechanism and inadequate oxygen supply to the tissues. This increases the risk of heart diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and obesity. Sleep disturbances are common, which results in a person feeling tired, sleepy during the day, lack of concentration, increased irritability and can affect memory and mood too. There are greater chances of confusion, mental fogginess, reduced alertness, which can also increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
How To Diagnose Snoring?
Considering the possibility of underlying sleep apnea and the possible complications, it is necessary to evaluate snoring. The doctors often take into account your personal medical history and any history of facial deformities, injuries, allergies and assess the overall health condition. Scans are often ordered to detect structural deformities, nasal or oral problems like enlarged tonsils, adenoids, deviated nasal septum or nasal polyp.
Depending on the severity of snoring, the doctors may perform sleep studies to assess snoring. It is called polysomnography, which is a detailed analysis of your breathing during sleep. It can be done at the medical center or your home.2 In this, you are connected to sensors, which record the details during your sleep. It studies sleep stages, breathing and heart rate, brain waves, the oxygen level in blood, eye and leg movements.
Treatment For Snoring
Based on the study results, snoring is categorized into mild, moderate or severe and its association with sleep apnea is confirmed. What is the treatment for snoring? Knowing this is important to take the right action.
For mild cases of snoring lifestyle modifications are advised. Reduce weight, avoid alcohol, take good sleep at night and avoid sleeping on the back. Better sleep hygiene and sleeping on the sides prove useful. Get treatment for any nasal congestion, respiratory disorders that cause snoring.
For snoring associated with obstructive sleep apnea, additional treatment methods are suggested. These include
- Oral appliances that adjust the position of the tongue and soft palate and prevent them from collapsing. These help to avoid airway obstruction, thus reducing snoring and sleep apnea. However, the use of these appliances can cause dry mouth, excessive salivation, jaw pain, and discomfort.2
- Maintaining continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is another way of treating snoring.
Does CPAP Help Stop Snoring?
Snoring is a common sleep disorder but can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. It can have an impact on the quality of life as it causes sleep disturbances and affects the quality of sleep. While the serious side effects of obstructive sleep apnea can affect the person, a side effect like snoring can affect those around them. Hence, the treatment of snoring, whether or not associated with sleep apnea is necessary. Of all the treatments, CPAP is a popular one. Does CPAP help stop snoring? This is a common question, which needs to be addressed.
CPAP is a mechanism for continuous positive airway pressure. It is used with appliances attached to mask covering your nose or mouth while sleeping. The appliances have a small pump that directs the flow of pressurized air through the mask when a person is sleeping. This helps to prevent airway obstruction, thus minimize snoring and control sleep apnea. In a person having sleep apnea, there is the narrowing of the air passages due to collapsing of the throat structures. This causes partial or complete closure of the respiratory tract, which affects the breathing process during sleep. CPAP machine helps to maintain a continuous positive airway pressure, which keeps the air passage open and prevents narrowing. As CPAP prevents the apneic episodes or events when breathing stops during sleeping in sleep apnea patients, it is considered as a gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Also, with CPAP, the vibration of the tissues is prevented and so is snoring. This means that CPAP is an effective way to treat people having sleep apnea and snoring as a result of it.
However, as snoring can be caused due to other conditions as well, it is important to understand that CPAP may not be able to help in such cases. If snoring in a person is due to craniofacial abnormalities or swollen adenoids, CPAP may be able to prevent the narrowing of the air passages and control snoring in some cases. But the main underlying cause of snoring remains untreated. Hence, the use of other treatment modalities is necessary for cases unrelated to obstructive sleep apnea. Surgery is the treatment for deformities and medical or surgical treatment may be advised for enlarged tissues and glands. Similarly, nasal congestion needs appropriate treatment to relieve the symptoms of nasal blockage and reduce snoring. CPAP may be used as an adjunct therapy in such cases as it can prevent the narrowing of air passages and apneic events, which can have long-lasting effects on the patient’s health.
The other aspect of CPAP is that it is associated with negative effects as difficulty in tolerating it, resulting in poor compliance. While the latest treatments also focus on improved CPAP tolerability and patient adherence through patient interventions to improve the usage of CPAP for sleep apnea.3 This may also be useful for patients with snoring, particularly those related to sleep apnea.
Nevertheless, snoring too has several health effects like negative sleep pattern behaviors, an increased risk factor for poor sleep, risk of coronary artery disease and depressive disorders.4
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