People often think of snoring as a normal (albeit slightly embarrassing) aspect of sleep, usually relating it to lack of sleep or being overtired. However, snoring can be the result of much more than not getting a good night’s rest…it can actually be an indicator of a serious health problem, and it is something that should not be ignored.
Snoring often occurs when airflow from the mouth and nose becomes obstructed. There are many reasons that such an obstruction might occur, such as having obstructed nasal airways. Nasal obstruction can occur as a result of allergies, sinus infections, nasal polyps, or nasal deformities such as a deviated septum.
In order to treat nasal obstruction, Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, will prescribe patients with a nasal spray (such as Omnaris or Nasonex), and may also recommend that the patient take an over-the-counter allergy medication (such as Reactine or Benadryl.) In severe cases of nasal obstruction, a referral to an ENT may be necessary and surgery might also be required.
Snoring can also be caused by having poor muscle tone of the tongue and throat, which results in them collapsing and falling back into the airway. This can be caused by aging, as well as by consumption of alcohol and even from some sleep medications. Your sleep position can also cause snoring – for example, those who sleep on their backs are more likely to snore due to the effect that gravity has on the throat. Instead, try to change your sleep position by laying on your side or stomach.
Certain sleep disorders, which affect an estimated 2 million Canadians, are also often associated with snoring, with sleep apnea being one of the most common.
There are two types of sleep apnea that can occur: Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form and happens when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes and blocks the airway, or Central sleep apnea, which happens when your brain sends the wrong signals to the muscles that are responsible for controlling your breathing. Sleep apnea can cause an individual to stop breathing for a certain amount of time, meaning the brain is not getting enough oxygen – and, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
If you are over the age of 40, overweight, suffer from GERD (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux), or have a family history of sleep disorders, you are at a much higher risk of developing one yourself.
In order to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea, it’s important to ask your partner or a family member to pay close attention to your sleeping habits at night – specifically if you snore. Along with snoring, other common symptoms associated with sleep apnea include waking up with a sore throat, waking up gasping for air or feeling as though you’re choking, headaches, and having a lack of energy throughout the day.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, do not ignore them. Dr. Ali Ghahary is happy to discuss any concerns you might have about your sleeping habits and can see walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.