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Snoring – Causes, health risks, and treatment options

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Occasional snoring is fairly common for most people; however, problem snoring may indicate a more serious health issue. Problem snoring is more frequent in men, overweight people, and elderly adults.

Causes of snoring
Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction of free airflow through the airway, causing tissues in your throat to vibrate.
An obstruction in the airway may be caused by one of the following:

  • Anatomy of mouth and throat
  • Poor muscle tone in tongue and throat
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Why is sleep apnea a serious health concern?
When a person has sleep apnea, the upper airway narrows or collapses, causing multiple episodes of breathing reduction or pauses. The lowered amounts of oxygen in the blood make the heart work harder while asleep. Additionally, the pauses in breathing cause disruptions in the natural sleep cycle, making it harder for apnea patients to stay awake and alert during the day. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

Treatment options for sleep apnea

  • CPAP: device worn at night that opens the airway with pressure
  • Custom-fit oral appliances
  • Palatal implants: stiffens the soft palate
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): tightening and trimming of excess tissue in throat
  • Weight loss
  • Raising the head of the bed while sleeping