Sleeping next to a snoring partner can be annoying. It can also keep you awake and grate on your nerves, and in extreme cases, snoring can even strain the relationship between two otherwise loving people. Sometimes, however, there is more than meets the ear, and snoring may be more than a mere irritation, even if you don’t realize it yet. Lafayette dentist Dr. Michael Young explains how a snore can be more than a snore, and why you shouldn’t ignore the nighttime nuisance.
Why Do People Snore?
When you sleep, all of the muscles and tissues in your body relax. This includes the muscles and tissue in your mouth and throat. When oral and throat tissues relax too much, they can collapse into your airway, limiting the space for air to travel through as you breathe. Snoring is actually the sound of air trying to squeeze past compacted tissue as it travels through your airway. But what happens if this tissue collapses enough to completely block your airway?
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The word apnea means to stop breathing, and patients with sleep apnea experience multiple episodes throughout the night during which their breathing stops. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing because your throat and mouth tissues have completely blocked the passage of air. Snoring typically increases in intensity as the space becomes tighter, and an apnic episode is marked by extremely loud snoring followed by silence as breathing ceases, and then proceeded by gasping as the patient is forced to inhale. Lack of oxygen is the human body’s most urgent signal, so your mind forces your body awake to restart the breathing process after a few moments (usually about ten seconds). These episodes can happen hundreds of times in a single night, and their repetition makes it impossible to achieve the deep sleep your mind and body require to regenerate.
How Do I Treat Sleep Apnea?
Considering the seriousness of its complications, treating sleep apnea is a rather straight-forward process. In severe cases, Dr. Young may recommend a continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) machine, which provides a constant flow of pressure to help keep your airway open. If your case is mild, you may opt for a specialized sleepguard. Similar to a sports mouthguard, a sleepguard is designed to be worn in your sleep and holds your lower jaw slightly forward to prevent mouth and throat tissue collapse.