Millions of Americans snore. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring affects approximately 90 million American adults. While snoring in and of itself is not a dire medical condition, it may be an indication of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which causes a person to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep.
Some people are able to stop snoring by making life changes, such as losing weight, avoiding tobacco, and limiting alcohol before bed. For others, professional intervention is the only way to stop snoring and get a better night’s sleep.
Snoring is a noise caused by vibrations in the airway. When we sleep, the muscles in the back of the mouth relax. As air passes over them, they can vibrate producing a snoring sound. The narrower the airway becomes, the louder the snoring. In the case of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the muscles obstruct the airway completely and disrupt or stop normal breathing. Anyone can snore, but studies indicate that men, older adults, and people who are overweight are more likely to snore. Other factors that contribute to snoring are alcohol use, smoking, and use of sedatives.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep breathing disorder. The most noticeable sign of OSA is loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition and can contribute to cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, fatigue and daytime dysfunction, and complications with medications and surgery.
To determine if you or a loved one should be evaluated for sleep apnea, we recommend taking the “STOP BANG” screening questionnaire developed by Toronto Western Hospital, part of the University Health Network at the University of Toronto.
Evaluation to diagnose sleep apnea can done by participating in an in-lab sleep study or with the convenience of a home study, where the patient is monitored equipment that records heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels during sleep.
Dr. Finlay’s office uses a diagnostic device that enables the practice to assess the situation with the patient’s comfort in mind. The Bruxism and Sleep Monitor is equipped with unique software that produces a comprehensive dental report. This report includes the number of apnea/hypopneas per hour of sleep and the percent of time spent snoring versus total time spent in bed. This device is also used to monitor bruxism (teeth grinding) during sleep.
If lifestyle changes are not possible or make no impact on your snoring or sleep apnea, you may need to seek professional treatment. Although a CPAP machine is often the classic indicated treatment, compliance is a limitation. An alternative treatment is oral appliance therapy. Dr. Finlay & Associates treats snoring and sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy. These are custom made, removable dental devices designed to keep the airways open during sleep and prevent snoring. “Snore Guards” work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, or uvula, stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue, and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue. These are often more comfortable treatment modalities and therefore compliance is often better. A simple appliance can change, or even save your life.
Snoring affects not just the snorer, but the sleep partner as well. Contact Dr. Scott Finlay and Associates, DDS at 443-276-4094 to find out if a snore guard is right for you.