People who snore loudly are often the target of bad jokes and middle of the night elbow thrusts; but snoring is no laughing matter. While loud disruptive snoring is at best a social problem that may strain relationships, for many men, women and even children, loud habitual snoring may be one of the most obvious signs of a potentially life threatening disorder: obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Sleep Apnea, which is translated to mean “without breath”, is a disorder that can occur hundreds of times during the night while you sleep. Due to a blockage of the airway the patient can actually stop breathing sometimes as long as a minute or more, very often without any knowledge of the patient.
It is important to distinguish between snoring and OSA. Many people snore. It’s estimated that approximately 30% to 50% of the US population snore at one time or another, some significantly. Everyone has heard stories of men and women whose snoring can be heard rooms away from where they are sleeping.
Since snoring can be one of the most obvious signs of Sleep Apnea, it is important that we differentiate between the two by means of clinical history taking and possibly a sleep study, which is a study that records certain physiologic data while we sleep. Severe snoring can cause several problems, including marital discord, sleep disturbances and waking episodes sometimes caused by one’s own snoring. But, snoring does not always equal OSA; sometimes it is only a social inconvenience. Conversely sleep apnea can lead to many significant medical problems including heart disease, stroke, gastric reflux, diabetes to name just a few. Rest assured after proper diagnosis, there are several available options to treat both chronic snoring and Sleep Apnea.