If you snore, it’s not such a big deal…for you. Your significant other might have a different opinion. While you’re snorting and wheezing, deep in slumber, your mate may be seething, robbed of precious sleep, leading to tensions and animosity.
But the truth is, even if your own snoring doesn’t wake you up, it can still be causing you to lose restful sleep. And a bad night tonight can mean a bad day tomorrow.
More than 90 million people in North America, nearly one third of the population, snore while sleeping. Twenty percent of the people who snore suffer from obstructive sleep apnea [OSA], which is a life-threatening obstruction of the airway. A snore guard can prevent snoring and OSA.
What causes snoring?
During sleep, the whole body relaxes. The muscles and soft tissues in the throat and mouth relax making the breathing airway smaller. The decrease in airway space increases the velocity of air flowing through the airway during breathing. As the airway closes and the speed of the air increases, the soft tissues in the back of the mouth and throat begin to flutter against one another, causes the obnoxious snoring sounds.
Obstructive sleep apnea [OSA]
Snoring may be a sign of something more serious: obstructive sleep apnea. OSA occurs with reduced airflow during sleep to the point where oxygen levels in the body drop. Even complete blockage of the airway space by the soft tissues and the tongue can occur. A person with OSA can stop breathing 20 or 30 times an hour for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. Snoring can alternate between from being extremely loud to periods of complete silence. Gasping or choking can even occur during sleep. The lungs struggle to catch a breath—choking sounds—until the chest muscles can force the airway to open—the gasp.
OSA affects about 18 million people in the U.S. and can be life-threatening. OSA increases the person’s risk for a heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Lack of continuous, restful sleep puts the sufferer at high risk for being involved in an auto accident and an inability to efficiently and safely function during the day. Morning headaches, sore throats, daytime sleepiness, trouble concentrating, and depression are often systems of OSA. Usually the individual is lethargic and tired throughout the day.
What can be done?
Studies have shown that excess body weight, heavy alcohol consumption, smoking and sedative medications increase the severity of snoring. Reducing or stopping alcohol drinking and smoking will help reduce snoring. Even a 10 percent drop in weight can dramatically reduce snoring and improve the quality of sleep. Sleeping position can affect snoring. Usually sleeping on one’s side can help, so the tongue does not fall back
into the throat as easily, helping to keep the airway open.
Surgical techniques to enlarge the airway by removing soft tissue structures, such as the uvula, tonsils and adenoids as well as partial removal of the soft palate have been attempted to remedy snoring with mixed results. Various studies have shown these soft tissue surgical procedures to have only a moderate success rate of between 20 to 40 percent.
For severe OSA, a CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine is necessary. When sleeping, a mask is worn that is attached to a machine that produces constant air pressure, forcing the airway open and producing increased oxygen intake. Usually a referral is given for sleep studies to determine the oxygen levels during sleep and to determine the degree of OSA.
For the majority of snorers and for treatment of mild to moderate OSA, the most affordable, non-invasive, comfortable and effective treatment is wearing a snore guard.
A snore guard is a custom-fitted mouthpiece prescribed by a patient’s dentist that helps open the airway during sleep. Snore guards are recommended for snoring and mild to moderate sleep OSA. The snore guard works by moving the lower jaw forward, opening the airway, which reduces air velocity and soft tissue vibration. The snore guard has different adjustments to move the jaw forward to the necessary opening position. In clinical research studies, snore
guards have exhibited initial snoring prevention at success rates of over 80 percent.
The improvement in quality of life for people that stop snoring is amazing. If OSA is prevented, their energy level increases dramatically. Recently, I treated a 49-year-old male patient who snored so loudly that his wife had to sleep on the couch. Needless to say, it was negatively affecting their marriage. His snoring had been an on-going problem for many years. He was also extremely tired at work, dragging through the day. After fitting him for a snore guard, he had immediate improvement; his snoring stopped. He and his wife are happily sleeping together again, and he has renewed energy at work.
If you or a loved one snores or have symptoms of OSA, ask your dentist about a snore guard or see your physician about a sleep study to determine oxygen levels. It could dramatically improve your quality of life and maybe even save your life.
Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!
George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com