Snoring: Why It Might Be More than Loud But Harmless
Snoring is often the butt of jokes, but this common sleep problem isn't a laughing matter. Snoring can actually be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition that can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes if untreated. Your New Canaan ear, nose and throat doctor, Dr. Andrew Parker, is here to explain why snoring can be so dangerous.
What happens if I have sleep apnea?
Your entire body relaxes when you sleep, including your throat. As your throat muscles relax, your airway becomes narrower and your tongue falls back toward your throat. Snoring occurs when your throat walls vibrate when you breathe. In some cases, your throat walls completely collapse while you sleep. When this happens, you stop breathing for a few seconds.
This cessation of breathing can happen many times throughout the night. Each time it does, your brain and body don't receive needed oxygen. Over time, lack of oxygen can not only cause high blood pressure and heart disease, but can also increase your risk of developing depression, pre-diabetes and diabetes.
How do I know that I have sleep apnea?
You won't know for sure that you have sleep apnea until you visit an ear, nose and throat doctor, but there are a few signs that can indicate that you may have the condition, including:
- Loud snoring
- Jerking awake during the night
- Gasping for breath or choking while your sleep
- Pauses in your breathing at night (Someone else may notice that you do this.)
- Feeling tired during the day
- Gaining weight
- Irritability or depression
- Waking up with a headache
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
How can my doctor help?
If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea, he will recommend a sleep study in a lab or a home sleep apnea test. These test measures how often you stop breathing during the night. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend that you use an oral appliance to prevent your airway from collapsing while you sleep or may suggest that you try a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP users wear a special mask that keeps their throats open with a constant stream of air. In some cases, surgery can be helpful although other treatments are usually tried first.
Concerned that you may have sleep apnea? Make an appointment with your New Canaan ear, nose and throat doctor, Dr. Andrew Parker, by calling (203) 866-8121. Don't let your snoring put your health at risk!