Sleep Disorder: Snoring And Sleep Apnea

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring occurs when the soft tissue structures of the upper airway collapse onto themselves and vibrate against each other as we attempt to breathe through them. This produces the sound we know as snoring. Large tonsils, a long soft palate, a large tongue, the uvula, and excess fat deposits in the throat all contribute to airway narrowing and snoring. Usually, the more narrow the airway space, the louder or more habitual the snoring.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway, causing airflow to stop. When the oxygen level drops low enough, the brain moves out of deep sleep and the individual partially awakens. The airway then contracts and opens, causing the obstruction in the throat to clear. The flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp. When the airflow starts again, you then move back into a deep sleep. The airway muscles collapse, and you awaken with a gasp. The airway clears once again as the process repeats itself. This scenario may occur many times during the night.

The combination of low oxygen levels and fragmented sleep are the major contributors to most of the ill effects suffered by the sleep apnea patient. In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart problems (heart attack, congestive heart failure, hypertension) and strokes, as well as having a higher incidence of work-related and driving-related accidents. 
How do you know if you have OSA?  Take a simple test but be sure to visit your physician for an official diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Since OSA is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis is based on the results of an overnight sleep study, called a Polysomnogram (PSG). Other factors of determining OSA are patient evaluation and history.  
Some helpful OSA treatments a patient can practice on their own include good sleep, hygiene, weight loss, and exercise. However, medical and dental treatments include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) - the pressurized air generated from a bedside machine, Oral Appliance Therapy - it involves the selection, design, fitting and use of a custom-designed oral appliance that is worn during sleep, and/or Surgery by dental specialists who treat upper airway obstructive disorders by utilizing both minimally invasive procedures, as well as more complex surgery, including jaw advancement.