Mild snoring can be an annoyance to you or your family. But if you have chronic, loud and excessive snoring, it may indicate a more serious condition known as sleep apnea. Those who have sleep apnea experience a sudden and repeated stoppage of breathing during sleep, sometimes up to hundreds of times every night. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a host of significant health issues, including heart problems, hypertension and stroke.
What causes sleep apnea?
When you fall asleep, the muscles of the body relax. For some people, the soft palate tissue at the back of the throat and tongue also relaxes, which can result in snoring. In extreme cases, the soft palate tissue and tongue will relax and collapse so much that it blocks the airway. This is a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep by moving out of deep sleep and into light sleep. The airway can become completely blocked by the soft palate, and only becomes open again when the brain signals to the body to wake up momentarily and resume breathing. The stoppage of breathing and jolting awake is what distinguishes sleep apnea from snoring.
Factors that may contribute to sleep apnea include:
- Excessive weight
- Loss of muscle tone in throat, usually from aging
- Anatomical structure of mouth and throat
- Excessive alcohol intake
Even if you aren’t fully awoken by a stoppage of breathing from sleep apnea, the interruption in your sleep, dozens of times a night, can leave you feeling ill-rested and have many other side-effects.
Some of the health problems resulting from sleep apnea include:
- Sleepiness or exhaustion during the day
- Poor concentration
- Learning and memory difficulties
- Difficulty staying awake while reading, working and driving
- Increased risk for heart attack and stroke
- High blood pressure
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
If you snore excessively and may have sleep apnea, a thorough examination by Del Rey ENT Associates can help determine your condition and the best course of treatment for you. Contact Us today to make an appointment.