Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of your partner snoring? While the disruption can be annoying, generalized snoring is a relatively common condition among many adults and even children. However, snoring can also be a sign of more serious breathing issues, including obstructive sleep apnea. Knowing the difference between these two similar yet very different conditions can help you get the right treatment and preserve your wellbeing.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when there is turbulent airflow causing the tissues of the upper airway to vibrate during sleep. This can be heard when there is an obstruction anywhere along the passage from the nose or mouth to the trachea (windpipe). It is estimated that 45% of normal adults snore occasionally and almost 25% are habitual snorers. Many factors can cause snoring, such as enlarged tonsils, adenoids, soft palate or uvula, being overweight, excessive alcohol or sedative consumption, or nasal obstruction.
The Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Whether caused by allergies or drinking excessively, generalized snoring does not compromise the individual’s health. On its own, snoring is more a nuisance than a serious condition, often causing the snorer’s bed partners to miss out on a good night’s rest. However, raucous, deep snoring can be indicative of a more serious condition.
Obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA, is a life-threatening condition caused when tissues at the back of the throat collapse into the airway as patients sleep. This significant obstruction blocks airflow, causing a person to stop breathing for over 10 seconds and often wake up with a loud snort, gasping for breath. Over the course of a night, this cycle of pauses in breathing and snorting can occur up to 50 times, sometimes without the patient fully waking up.
Cessation in breathing not only compromises an individual’s oxygen intake, but the cycle also has a negative impact on an individual’s health. Poor sleep quality leads to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty paying attention during the day as well as trouble sleeping at night. In more severe cases, lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke or even death.
Treating Sleep Apnea
When it comes to treating sleep apnea, time is of the essence. If you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea, our Chicago surgeon will first schedule you for an overnight sleep study. Typically conducted at a specialized sleep center, these studies monitor oxygen intake, muscle movement, and blood pressure while you sleep. The results are then evaluated by a trained sleep physician who will make the diagnosis and determine the severity of your condition.
For patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or those who prefer non-surgical intervention, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can be an excellent option. With this treatment, patients wear a nasal mask that uses positive air pressure to keep air pathways open. While CPAP is very effective, many find this solution uncomfortable and claustrophobic. As a result, patients tend to not wear their treatment mask which can worsen their condition.
For individuals searching for a more permanent solution, Dr. Dutton offers a number of surgical solutions that correct the obstruction.
For some patients, deviated septums and polyps that form within the nasal cavity are the sources of obstruction. To alleviate this source of discomfort, nasal surgeries such as septoplasty, submucosal resection, or endoscopic polyp removal may be recommended by our Chicago surgeon.
Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy:
In some individuals, enlarged tonsils and adenoids prevent proper airflow and trigger apneic episodes. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are ideal options for permanently addressing the root cause of obstruction, allowing individuals to sleep comfortably through the evening.
For individuals with moderate to severe OSA caused by an enlarged or elongated uvula, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is among the top recommended procedures. Known for being minimally invasive, this surgical solution uses laser technology to remove excess tissue from the uvula. This keeps the airway open at night while reducing the vibrations that occur as patients breathe while sleeping.
Ideal for both habitual snorers and sufferers of sleep apnea, this surgical technique uses small rods placed within the soft palate to help stiffen tissue. Once healed, the newly reinforced tissue no longer falls into the airway and allows individuals to regain a comfortable evening’s rest. For snoring patients, the placement of rods also reduces the vibrations that cause the deep snoring sounds, helping individuals and their partners get a night of uninterrupted sleep.
In some instances, enlarged tissues including the uvula, soft palate, and pharynx are the source of obstruction. To best treat patients, our Chicago surgeon may recommend a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. During this sleep surgery, abnormally sized or shaped tissues are remodeled to open up the airway and make breathing easier.
What to Expect During Your Sleep Apnea Surgery
As with other surgeries conducted at Rhinoplasty Institute of Chicago, your treatment is planned to best address your current health needs and ensure your future wellbeing. During the consultation phase, Dr. Dutton will evaluate your diagnosis and work with your other physicians to ensure your future surgery protects your health.
Significant nasal surgery, tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies and UPPPs are performed in an operating room with the patient completely asleep under general anesthetic, but LAUPs, pillar implants and minor procedures to reduce nasal turbinates can be performed in the office under a local anesthetic with shorter recovery periods and significantly less pain. Our physicians have extensive experience in all of these techniques and will be able to determine which would be best for you.
Schedule Your Sleep Apnea Consultation Today!
While regular snoring may seem harmless, it can also be the sign of a more serious underlying condition such as sleep apnea. If you or your partner is showing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, we encourage you to make an appointment with our team to begin the diagnosis process. From there, Dr. Dutton will work with you and your physician to ensure your future surgery gets you the rest you deserve. Call (630) 574-8222 today!