Even though it’s common and rarely thought of as dangerous, snoring may be more of a nuisance than you realize. Besides the fact that the noise can diminish your partner’s quality of sleep, the forces behind snoring can also pose a serious risk to your health, especially if it indicates obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a sleep disorder marked by periods of extremely loud snoring, and that causes you to repeatedly stop breathing in your sleep. If your snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, then we advise seeking treatment as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know snores, you may have wondered at some point why it occurs. When you sleep, your body’s muscles and tissues relax, including those in your mouth and throat. If your oral tissues relax too much, or if you fall asleep in just the right position, then some mouth and throat tissues can collapse enough to partially block your airway. As a result, your breaths are forced through a smaller path, and the sound of snoring is the noise your throat makes when its walls vibrate from the increased air pressure.
Minor snoring can usually be alleviated by changing sleeping positions, or with nasal strips if the obstruction is in the sinuses. Obstructive sleep apnea, however, is more complex than typical snoring. OSA occurs when abnormally-sized or shaped oral tissues completely block the airway, preventing you from breathing at all.
After a few moments of increasingly loud snores, you’ll suddenly grow quiet as your air way becomes sealed off. The lack of oxygen will cause your brain to panic, forcing your body to wake up and start breathing again. Since the cycle can repeat itself hundreds of times a night, OSA makes it impossible for your mind and body to fall into a deep, restful sleep.
Treatment for sleep apnea usually depends on its severity, and can range from lifestyle changes, like losing weight, to oral surgery to correct abnormal structures. Most patients, though, can find relief through a custom-made mouthguard, or sleep guard, designed by their dentist that supports the lower jaw to prevent tissues from blocking your air way.