Snoring is characterized by abnormally loud breathing during sleep caused by vibrations produced by structures within the throat. Snoring sounds typically come from the roof of the mouth because the soft palate and uvula are too long. In some cases, snoring can come from the back of the tongue or other structures in the throat.
An estimated 30% to 50% of the United States population snores. Snoring that can be heard more than two bedrooms away is sometimes described as “heroic” snoring.
Difference Between Snoring And Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring is not sleep apnea, and sleep apnea is not snoring. Snoring is a social problem that can cause significant sleep disturbances and waking episodes and negatively affect the sleep quality of both the snorer and bed partner. However, up to two-thirds of patients with loud snoring have significant obstructive sleep apnea.
How Snoring is Treated
The primary course of action for treating snoring is making behavioral and lifestyle changes. Non-surgical treatment methods include trying to lose weight and sleeping on the side. Positional devices that vibrate when lying on the back can help individuals sleep on their side and reduce snoring. One of the simplest ways to maintain a proper sleeping position is to sew a tennis ball in the pocket of a T-shirt and wear the T-shirt backwards at night.
Elevating the head of the bed four to six inches or using a foam wedge pillow can also make a difference. Nasal strips or other types of nasal dilators may reduce snoring for individuals with tight nasal passages.
It’s important to avoid or limit alcohol use and treat environmental allergies. Some patients may benefit from an oral appliance.
Radiofrequency procedures to the palate, injection snoreplasty, and CAPSO (Cautery Assisted Palatal Stiffening Operation) are a few office-based procedures that can help reduce snoring.
The physician begins a radiofrequency procedure by administering a local anesthetic. Next, he or she will position a small radiofrequency probe that delivers energy to the tissue of the palate. This energy shrinks and scars the tissue, and helps to gradually reduce the size of the palate. Radiofrequency treatments are usually repeated over several visits to maximize effectiveness. Some patients may need to have a small amount of the lining of the palate removed or receive an injection of an agent that causes scarring and shrinkage of the soft tissue.
A second cause of snoring is an enlarged uvula that protrudes into the airway. This condition often causes multiple symptoms, including difficulty swallowing and general irritation of the throat.
An enlarged uvula may be partially removed during an uvulectomy. This procedure can help improve snoring and any other related symptoms. Depending on the patient’s unique condition, the uvulectomy may be performed using either general or local anesthetic.
Sometimes snoring is worsened by structures in the nasal cavity called nasal turbinates, which can become enlarged and block the airway.
Nasal turbinates can be reduced with radiofrequency treatments. These treatments may be performed with a local anesthetic as an outpatient procedure or under general anesthetic in a hospital.
Microdebriding is another method that can be used to precisely target and remove the tissue of the nasal turbinates and open the nasal passages.