Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are part of a continuum known as “Sleep-Disordered Breathing.” They are related to narrowing of the upper airway (which can be in the nose, throat or both areas) and this causes turbulence of the airflow through that section. Turbulent airflow produces the characteristic sound we associate with snoring. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is when the narrowing becomes so severe that airflow through that section of the airway ceases completely. Typically, there is a pause in the breathing, often following by a snort or gasp for air. Snoring and sleep apnoea are seen when we are asleep as this is when the muscles of our throat are relaxed and are more likely to collapse into the airway.
Most people will snore at some stage, however chronic snoring can disturb bed partners and other family members, putting a strain on relationships. Furthermore, loud snoring may be a sign of underlying obstructive sleep apnoea. Untreated obstructive sleep apnoea may have multiple health effects. Besides the chronic tiredness and possible effects on our thought processes and judgement ability, patients with untreated OSA have a much higher risk of death and heart disease. In children it can potentially impact long term on growth and brain development. The diagnosis of OSA in adults is made via a sleep study (though may be strongly suspected based on history alone).
In children, the removal of tonsils and adenoids can resolve sleep apnoea in 80-90% patients. However, in adults the role of surgery is less clear cut as the problem is often multi-factorial. An ENT surgeon, such as Dr Hodge, can assess your upper airway to see if there are any specific surgical interventions that may be appropriate in your particular case. As a general rule the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is considered the gold standard for treatment of OSA in adults, however in some patient’s surgery to widen the nasal passages may lead to better tolerance of the machine.
For those patients with snoring or OSA, Dr Hodge can conduct a thorough examination of your upper airway and discuss if there are any surgical options that would be appropriate in your specific case.