What is Snoring?

When we inhale, the muscles in the nose and at the back of the throat contract and hold the upper airway between the nose and the voice box open so air can move down the passage. The muscles at the back of the throat raise the palate (the roof of the mouth) and pull it forward, then the tongue pulls forward into the front of the mouth, the sides of the throat pull apart and the vocal cords open wide. Then the diaphragm contracts, pulling air into the chest. Snoring happens when something partially blocks or prevents air from moving smoothly down your airway.

What causes Snoring?

The main cause of the partial obstruction is that the airway is too narrow. Factors that may cause a smaller than normal airway include:

  • Blocked nose
  • Large tongue
  • Slightly undershot jaw, where the tongue is closer to the back of the throat

With the partial blockage of the airway, the soft palate and soft flabbier parts of the throat vibrate as someone inhales and the result is snoring. When we’re awake, our brain tells the muscles to pull harder to compensate for the blockage. It doesn’t do that when we sleep, so the throat stays narrow. Snoring is usually worse when sleeping on your back but can happen in any body position. Consumption of alcohol further relaxes the muscles and can amplify the situation.

Do all people Snore?

Everyone snores at some point in their life when they have nasal congestion, or have consumed alcohol, are obese, or sleep with their neck arched back. When it happens repeatedly and regularly and disturbs the sleep of the snorer and others, it needs to be treated.

What is Sleep Apnoea and what causes it?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) happens when the airway becomes completely blocked or “obstructed”. People with sleep apnoea do snore, but the deeper they breath the more obstructed the airway becomes until eventually they can’t take in air at all. The brain wakes them up and gets them breathing again, but as they settle back to sleep, they start snoring again, and the cycle continues. The person doesn’t even realize it’s happening.

Who can get Sleep Apnoea?

OSA is extremely common, affecting at least 1 per cent to 4 per cent of the normal population; male, female and even children. Probably closer to 10 per cent of middle-aged males have the condition. Every one of us probably knows one or two people with severe OSA.

How Can Snoring and Sleep Apnoea affect a person’s Life?

Snoring and sleep apnea disrupts the sleep of the partner/spouse and others in the household, as well as that of the sufferer even though they’re not aware of the snoring or that they stop breathing while they sleep. People just grow accustomed to walking around sleep-deprived. They don’t really know what’s making them that way, or if someone has told them about their snoring or stopping breathing, they don’t think it really makes that much difference that they need to do anything about it.

Effects of lack of sleep may include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and quick-temperedness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • General loss of enjoyment of life
  • A dry throat
  • Behavioural issues (particularly with children)
  • Heartburn
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease due to remaining stress that sleep usually remedies
  • Increased susceptibility to more prolonged flu or colds since the body requires sleep to heal
  • Three-fold increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

How can Campus Dental treat Sleep Apnea and Snoring?

Once correctly diagnosed, both snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can be treated, and the sufferer and family can return to a normal, healthy lifestyle. A sleep study is necessary to help us determine the cause and the specific treatment to address it.

Treatment may involve:

  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Using a CPAP machine
  • Removal of tonsils and adenoids (particularly in children)
  • Laser or surgical trimming of soft tissue
  • Mandibular (lower jaw) advancement devices or removable plates that hold the tongue and lower jaw forward.