Snoring & Sleep

Snoring & Sleep Disorders

What Causes Snoring?

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. One thing to remember from the outset is that the cause of your snoring is likely to be multifactorial. People who snore may suffer from:

  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When muscles are too relaxed, either from alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway or the throat muscles draw in from the sides into the airway. This can also happen during deep sleep.

  • Excessive bulkiness of throat tissue. Children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore. Overweight people have bulky neck tissue, too. Cysts or tumors can also cause bulk, but they are rare.

  • Long soft palate and/or uvula. A long palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, it acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing. A long uvula makes matters even worse.

  • Obstructed nasal airways. A stuffy or blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, and pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat, and snoring results. So, snoring often occurs only during the hay fever season or with a cold or sinus infection.

  • Also, deformities of the nose or nasal septum, such as a deviated septum (a deformity of the wall that separates one nostril from the other) can cause such an obstruction.

Investigations & Sleep studies

To accurately determine whether you are a Simple snorer or have underlying “Obstructive sleep apnoea” we may recommend a “sleep study”.

These tests are extremely valuable in diagnosing and treating many sleep disorders, including neurologic disorders, movement disorders and breathing disorders at night. These tests are recognized and covered by most healthcare insurers.

There are two broad types of sleep study and your surgeon will be able to advise you as to the best option for you.

  1. An ambulatory sleep diagnostic system that is suitable for home use
  2. A formal full sleep study (polysomnography) undertaken in hospital

Once the sleep study is completed, it is scored by and sent to a sleep specialist for interpretation.

Sleep studies are generally easy to tolerate, comfortable for patients, and give the sleep physician the information he/she needs to accurately diagnose and treat the sleep disorder.

Non-surgical Treatment

For mild forms of snoring caused by swelling of the lining of your nose, a doctor may prescribe an inhaled steroid preparation.

Mandibular advancement splints
Another option is a mandibular advancement splint/dental splint that holds your jaw forward. This is a no risk, pain free option that works for carefully selected patients. There are a number of products available on the market however we believe that it is best to have a device custom made.

For more severe forms of sleep apnea where surgery is inappropriate continuous positive airway pressure may be tried:

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is a device that includes a mask that fits snugly over your nose and mouth and is held in place with head straps. The mask is connected to a blower that generates pressurized air. You wear it while sleeping.
The controlled pressure works as an air splint to keep the soft tissue of the nose and throat in place and the airway open.
This noninvasive therapy works for 95% of people with sleep apnea

Surgical Treatment

Surgical solutions to snoring, if appropriate will need to be tailored to each individual patients problem. This judgement will need to be made following a detailed consultation and sometimes with the help of further investigations.

Below are some of the broad options for the surgical treatment of snoring:

  • Surgery to the nose
  • Surgery to the soft palate / Throat
  • Surgery to the base of tongue

We would be happy to discuss this further with you following an assessment.

The advice and information contained herein is provided in good faith as a public service. However the accuracy of any statements made is not guaranteed and it is the responsibility of readers to make their own enquires as to the accuracy, currency and appropriateness of any information or advice provided. Liability for any act or omission occurring in reliance on this document or for any loss, damage or injury occurring as a consequence of such act or omission is expressly disclaimed.