Introducing: Ask a Doctor
At UTHSC ENT, we understand that patients need clear, helpful answers to their questions. We also know that a flood of new information can be overwhelming.
That’s why our department’s introducing Ask a Doctor: an ongoing series of posts that tackle Frequently Asked Questions about common issues. We hope these articles give you a better understanding of your situation and an easy path to treatment.
Today, let’s talk about snoring!
Prepared by: Andrew Franklin, UTHSC Medical Student
Reviewed by: Dr. M. Boyd Gillespie
So, what is snoring?
Snoring is the noise produced during sleep due to vibration of structures found within the airway. This disorder is quite common, affecting somewhere between 20% and 40% of individuals.
UTHSC ENT recently unveiled a state-of-the-art Sleep Surgery Clinic. Here, we use cutting edge techniques to treat snoring and sleep apnea.
If you’d like to learn even more about snoring and sleep apnea, click here. If you’d like to make an appointment at our clinic, give us a call! 901-737-3021
What are some snoring causes?
Snoring can have many causes. One of the largest causes of snoring is obesity, especially in the case of a patient who has an elevated amount of neck or jowl fatty tissue. Snoring risk would be heightened, for example, in a patient with a larger chest and neck.
Studies also suggest that males are more commonly affected than females. However, women see increased rates of snoring after menopause and as they age.
Snoring can also be caused by the anatomical narrowing of the airway. In patients with a narrower pharynx, snoring is seen at a higher rate in comparison to individuals with a normal cross-sectional area of their pharynx.
What are the symptoms and long-term outcomes of snoring?
In addition to the noise that snoring causes, there are additional potential symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Sleep disturbance/restless sleep
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nocturia (waking up at night to urinate)
When snoring goes untreated, its effects can be widespread. Those who snore throughout the night are more likely to suffer from night sweats and reduced sexual desire.
When data was gathered in one study that focused on school-age children’s academic performance in light of snoring and intermittent hypoxia (lack of oxygen being delivered to the body), nightly snoring showed a strong correlation with poor academic performance.
Snoring that is severe enough to awaken an individual can also play a key role in weight gain. When eating meals after an abbreviated night’s sleep, our bodies release higher amounts of insulin. Long-term continuation of increased insulin will cause an increase in weight, make diabetes more likely, and can even lead to worsening of snoring itself.
What are some snoring treatments?
There are both non-surgical and surgical interventions for snoring.
Non-surgical interventions include, but are not limited to:
- Weight loss and exercise
- Changing the angle at which the patient sleeps at (e.g. specialized pillows)
- Oral appliances that change the angle of the airway opening
- Using nasal strips while sleeping
- Using nasal decongestant sprays prior to sleep
Surgical interventions include, but are not limited to:
- Septoplasty (deviated septum reconstruction)
- Soft palate stiffening procedures (available in office under local anesthesia)
- Tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils)
Although it is rare to eliminate snoring sound altogether, snoring can be effectively managed with at least a 50% reduction in the volume of the bothersome sound in most cases using a combination of techniques. This can result in a better night sleep for both the bed partner and the snorer.