What is Snoring?
I'm sure just about everyone is somewhat familiar with snoring. You probably know at least one person who snores. It could be your bed partner, your parents, grandparents, even Uncle Ned or Aunt Sophie who may snore at various sound levels. Some laugh and make jokes about it, but it can be a symptom of a serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. And if it is obstructive sleep apnea, then it is no laughing matter, and that individual needs to get evaluated by a sleep specialist. Information on apnea is available at the above link.
Snoring is a noise produced when an individual breathes (usually produced when breathing in) during sleep which in turn causes vibration of the soft palate and uvula (that thing that hangs down in the back of the throat). The word "apnea" means the abscence of breathing.
All snorers have incomplete obstruction ( a block) of the upper airway. Many habitual snorers have complete episodes of upper airway obstruction where the airway is completly blocked for a period of time, usually 10 seconds or longer. This silence is usually followed by snorts and gasps as the individual fights to take a breath. When an individual snores so loudly that it disturbs others, obstructive sleep apnea is almost certain to be present.
There is snoring that is an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea and there is also primary snoring.
Primary Snoring, also known as simple snoring, snoring without sleep apnea, noisy breathing during sleep, benign snoring, rhythmical snoring and continous snoring is characterized by loud upper airway breathing sounds in sleep without episodes of apnea (cessation of breath).
How Does Primary Snoring Differ from Snoring that Indicates Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
First of all, it is absolutely necessary to rule out obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Be wary of any doctor who says it is not necessary. Behavioral and lifestyle changes may be suggested. Losing weight, sleeping on your side, refraining from alcohol and sedatives are often recommended.
There are mouth/oral devices (that help keep the airway open) on the market that may help to reduce snoring in three different ways.
There is also surgery. A good article to read is Snoring Not Funny, Not Hopeless. There is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP), that involves removing excess tissue from the throat. Take a look at this Canadian site for more information on snoring, sleep apnea and LAUP surgery.
The newest surgery, approved by the FDA in July 1997 for treating snoring is called somnoplasty and uses radio frequency waves to remove excess tissue.
Assorted Items of Interest on Snoring
Iranian Man Divorcing Wife for Snoring -- True story from Fox News, February 18,1997
Diagnostic Classification Steering Committee, Thorpy MJ, Chairman. International Classification of Sleep Disorders: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Rochester, Minnesota: American Sleep Disorders Association, 1990.
Kryger, Meir H., Roth, Thomas, Dement, William C. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: W.B. Saunders Company, 1994.
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