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Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Snoring is a noise that someone makes while they sleep. The noise begins in the back of the throat or nose as the muscles in the back of the mouth, tongue and throat relax and block the airway. The snoring sound is a result of your uvula (soft palate) vibrating and knocking against the back of the throat. Besides relaxed muscles, snoring can occur when your tonsils or adenoids are swollen or infected, your nasal passages are blocked, or if you have a deviated septum. Each of these issues narrows the airway and lead to snoring. Other contributors include obesity, some medications and alcohol consumption before bedtime.

While snoring is not uncommon, it can be a sign of a more significant problem known as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea relaxes muscles so thoroughly that they close the throat, stopping breathing from 20 seconds up to three minutes. Those who experience sleep apnea deal with this pattern of snoring, apnea and waking up multiple times during the night. Sleep apnea is more common among those who are 40 and older, postmenopausal women and people with a family history of snoring. 

By waking up multiple times, it’s common for sleep apnea to make you feel tired, thus slowing your reaction time, confusing your thinking and leading to memory loss. 

Other negative effects of sleep apnea include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

To diagnose sleep apnea, a physical examination is taken to determine the weight, blood pressure and airway constriction in the nose, throat and lungs. For many patients, a doctor will recommend a sleep test done in a sleep laboratory. Sleep tests monitor 16 different body functions while you sleep to help determine the exact cause and The sleep test monitors 16 different body functions while you sleep and can help identify the exact cause and seriousness of the sleep apnea.

Some tips for easing mild apnea are to sleep on your sides and avoid any alcohol or sedatives before going to bed. Other ways to relieve mild cases of sleep apnea are to use nasal decongestants, an inhaled steroid preparation, or using an oral mouth device that forces the forward to keep the tongue from blocking the throat. 

For more extreme cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may issue you a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). A CPAP is a device that straps onto your face and creates pressurized air, keeping your airway open during sleep. In the most severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to open the airway. Some surgery options include tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or deviated septum repair.  

The primary treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). For those patients who cannot tolerate CPAP, alternative treatments may be an option. Some of these options include hypoglossal nerve stimulation (Inspire ®), functional nasal surgery, hyolaryngeal surgery, and throat surgery in the way of tonsil and palate surgery. At Hinckley and Hall ENT, we offer all of these alternative treatments to CPAP.

If you believe you are suffering from sleep apnea or would like to discuss solutions for snoring, please schedule an appointment with one of our office otolaryngologists.