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Is it snoring or sleep apnea? Let’s find out before your condition troubles others

2018-06-22 11:41:57
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Has anyone ever told you that you snore during sleep? Have you ever come across any family member or friend whose excessive snoring irritates you or disrupts your sleep? Then this discussion is for you to get some idea about this condition which can even create untold troubles in one’s married life.   
 
Snoring simply means some rattling noises you make while breathing during sleep.   
 
This is a common problem in our society and might not really bother the particular individual, but most of the time troubles others around. One wouldn’t think of seeking medical advice for this condition, but it can unknowingly give rise to several negative consequences or can be a sign of an underlying illness.   
To talk extensively on this topic and address its medical aspect, we have our discussion today with Dr. Solith Senanayake, Registrar Internal Medicine, Lecturer at the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayawardenepura.   
 
“Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissues in your upper airway tract during sleep. This can occur at any part of the tract- from the soft palate to the back of your tongue or throat or through a defect in the nose.   
 
Habitual snoring is a common phenomenon, occurring in almost 50% of males and 30% of females in the middle-aged population. This condition can occur at any age, but is highly prevalent among adults whose ages range from 40-60 years. With regard to children who snore this condition could be related to an underlying chest infection where the nose is blocked with phlegm” says Dr. Senanayake.   
 
According to Dr. Senanayake, snoring can be the presenting feature of an underlying illness-and that is why we should be concerned.   
 
Snoring indicates increased resistance of the upper airway tract and the tendency of the pharynx to collapse when you breathe out. Snoring, excessively and frequently may indicate the presence of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by partial or complete obstructive episodes that occur when the upper airway resistance is sufficient to disrupt sleep.   
 
 
Snoring can also be associated with various other medical conditions like obesity, nasal congestion, abnormalities of the structure of face and skull, hypothyroidism and enlargement of tonsils or adenoids which results in an increase of upper airway resistance.   
 
This condition can also be present in individuals who drink excessive amounts of alcohol or smoke cigarettes and other Tobacco products.   
 
Therefore, snoring might not always be suggestive of an illness, but it’s better to seek medical advice if it’s bothering you so much, just to be on the safe side.   
 
When to seek help?
  • If you suddenly wake up during most nights, gasping for breathe   
  • If your partner keeps on complaining that you snore too loud or suddenly go short of breathe during sleep   
  • Day time sleepiness or fatigue due to disrupted night sleep   
  • If your snoring has become a real barrier to maintain a good relationship with your partner   

 

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
“This is a common breathing disorder characterized by, recurrent and brief episodes of complete or partial cessation of breathing, daytime symptoms of disrupted sleep including sleepiness, fatigue or poor concentration and signs of disturbed sleep such as snoring, restlessness or resuscitative snorts” says Dr. Senanayake.   
 
He further mentioned that, OSA is a commonly overlooked condition among the obese which can directly affect your mental performance, resulting in adverse clinical outcomes related to day to day performances. Untreated patients also have an increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular related illnesses.   
 
Risk factors for OSA include older age, male gender, obesity, cranio-facial abnormalities, upper airway soft tissue abnormalities, smoking, nasal congestion and family history, so if you have one or many of these features suggestive of OSA, it is advisable to seek professional care in order to prevent unnecessary issues later.   
 
 
Seeking timely medical advice 
Once your doctor suspects it is this condition he will have an extensive discussion with you, examine your throat, nose and mouth for structural abnormalities and get certain investigations done to diagnose what exactly is causing the trouble. He will further run a quick evaluation to know the severity of your condition, impact of it on your day today life and to decide on the treatment plan.   
“Polysomnography is a test available to study your sleep. A piece of equipment is fixed to the patient which then monitors the heart, lung, brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements and blood oxygen levels during sleep” said Dr. Senanayake.   
 
In what you call a ‘split-night sleep study’, you’ll be monitored during the first half of the night and in case you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) will be given for the second half of the night to see its impact on your issue. This can also be helpful in excluding other causes of OSA, already highlighted in this article.  “Obstructive sleep apnea can be effectively addressed with lifestyle modifications including weight loss, cessation of alcohol and smoking, not sleeping on your back and instead lying on the side, receiving OSA-specific therapies such as positive airway pressure, oral appliances and nasal decongestants depending on the underlying causative factor.   
 
“These methods will improve this condition in most of the patients, but some may need surgery if the condition involves anatomical or structural deformity which can’t be addressed non-invasively”the doctor said. 
 
Therefore the take home message is it’s better to spread the message on how it can make a negative impact on the quality of your life and the importance of seeking medical advice at the earliest. “Don’t wait till the moment where your condition starts bothering somebody,” he concluded .


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