ANSWER: Snoring is not just an annoyance to people around you, it could be a sign of a serious medical condition called, “sleep apnea.” According to MedicineNet.com, sleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea; central apnea, obstructive apnea (OSA), and a mixture of central and obstructive apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the brain to activate the muscles of breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the collapse of the airway during sleep. Your bedmate may actually hear you stop breathing several times a night.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be a risk factor for the development of other medical conditions. High blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, atrial fibrillation disturbances, atherosclerotic heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, insulin resistance, and even death are some of the known complications of untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea is also linked to memory problems, depression, anxiety, and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) if left untreated.
Snoring in and of itself can be disturbing to the people you share space with. It is widely known to cause sleep deprivation to the snorer and those around them. It also causes daytime drowsiness, bad temper, a lack of focus or motivation as well as decreased libido. None of these issues are pleasant, but more importantly, recent studies associate loud “snoring” with the development of carotid artery atherosclerosis which could mean the risk of brain damage and of stroke.
The first step is to determine whether your snoring is related to sleep apnea. That is done by wearing a monitoring device over your hand while you sleep (the device is mailed directly to your house via mail). The result is then read and diagnosed by a physician, who determines whether you have sleep apnea or not. Based on those results, you have an option of using a CPAP machine (which uses a mask that fits over your mouth and nose and a machine that creates positive airway pressure) or a comfortably fitting oral appliance custom made to your individual teeth. This oral appliance works by comfortably protruding the lower jaw forward, thus opening up the airway for an easy flow of oxygen while you sleep.
A visit to your dentist may be all you need! Because if is a medical condition, most if not all of the cost of the monitoring device, diagnosing and the appliance is covered by your medical insurance. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, oral appliances are most effective in the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea although they do provide a treatment alternative for patients with severe OSA who cannot or will not tolerate CPAP.
Don’t just brush off snoring as a nuisance, treat it as symptom of a dangerous condition, and you can prolong your life!