Snoring, Sleeping Disorders & Treatment

At ENT Physicians, Inc. we specialize in identifying and treating Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea which are separate but sometimes associated disorders.

Snoring is a common condition that can affect anyone. Noisy snoring is usually caused by a restricted airflow at the back of the throat. This happens when the soft tissues there close up collapse, so air has to be forced past them. This causes the soft tissues to vibrate loudly - causing snoring.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) (sleep apnea) is when the airflow is so restricted the throat completely closes, stopping breathing. This triggers a choke reflex to clear the airway, disrupting sleep. Patients with OSA are usually obstructing their airway approximately twenty times per hour of sleep leading to chronic fatigue.

Snoring and sleep apnea happen when asleep because the jaw muscles go slack, so the lower jaw and tongue fall back, narrowing the airway.This effect is made worse by laying on your back, causing the lower jaw to fall back more. Snoring is also worse when overweight, or relaxed after a drink or two.

Medical (non invasive) treatments

Medical treatments that may alleviate snoring and OSA include losing weight, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sedatives and heavy meals near bedtime, and changing your sleeping position as you tend to snore more when sleeping on your back than when sleeping on your side. Additional medical treatments for OSA include oral dental appliances and CPAP. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is delivered by a machine that uses air pressure to prevent the tissues in your throat from collapsing while you sleep. The air is blown through a mask fitted over your nose (and sometimes your mouth) that is worn while sleeping. CPAP needs to be worn all night, every night, in order to be effective, or else the symptoms and harmful medical effects of OSA will return immediately. If used properly, CPAP resolves OSA in nearly 100% of patients.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea Surgery Offers Lasting Relief: Ask your doctor which treatment is right for you.

Snoring may be treated with a simple 15 minute in office procedure called the Pillar procedure. Feel free to visit for a video demonstration.

Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea are separate but sometimes associated disorders that result from upper airway obstruction. Snoring results from multiple factors that may include nasal airway obstruction, obesity, mouth breathing, enlargement of the adenoid, tonsils, and base of the tongue, and vibration of structures such as the uvula and soft palate.

Surgery is considered for snoring when the effects of the noise become too intrusive. Surgical intervention for OSA is considered when weight loss has failed and the patient cannot tolerate or chooses not to wear CPAP.

Nasal surgery to treat snoring is generally focused on improving a narrow nasal passage. A nasal passageway can be obstructed by swelling of the turbinates, septal deviation and nasal polyps. Surgery to address each of these potential causes of obstruction can improve the flow of air through the nasal passages.

The soft palate is the flap of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth. If it is too long or floppy, it can vibrate and cause snoring. The uvula is suspended from the center of the palate. An abnormally long or thick uvula can also contribute to snoring.

Reducing the muscle bulk at the back of the tongue is utilized in cases of severe OSA. An oversized tongue contributes to the blockage of airflow during sleep. Reducing the size of the tongue may be achieved with the removal of the tongue muscle. A newer procedure called an ablation uses radio frequency technology to shrink the tongue base resulting in less pain and postoperative swelling.

Surgery is generally successful in reducing snoring and OSA. The success of a procedure depends on the problem area causing the snoring. For example, someone with nasal congestion will not have much improvement with a palate procedure and vice versa. The other factor that makes success hard to measure is the definition of success. As discussed earlier, the goal of surgery is a successful night’s sleep for those around the snorer.