Snoring – Looking for the "Quick Fix"

NSF’s Sleep in America polls have certainly found one thing about Americans: we are a nation of snorers! In our 2005 poll, nearly six of ten respondents (59%) report that according to their own experience or what others have told them, they snore! 17% of them say they snore so loudly it can be heard in other rooms. Were it not for its major effect on bed partners, most snorers might blissfully ignore it and symptoms such as frequent awakenings, sleepiness during the day and even high blood pressure. But our poll found that sleep problems of one person are associated with lost sleep for bed partners and these couples have less romance too. So what is the solution for disruptive snoring? And is it a danger or something that can be ignored?

Often times, the solution can be as simple as avoiding alcohol in the hours before bedtime. Then there are the more demanding efforts required to end cigarette addiction and to lose weight, especially if your pant or dress size keeps going up.

Clearly there are lots of commercial products promoted, including nasal and throat sprays as well as special pillows, and there are surgical approaches and dental devices that have been used, but according to NSF Chairman, Barbara Phillips, MD, MSPH, "Consumers should get good information before taking treatment into their own hands or trying something that is irreversible. Surgery to remove tissue in the airway is irreversible while dental devices can reduce or eliminate snoring in many patients and they do not involve any irreversible procedures." Further, oral/dental appliances have been demonstrated to be effective for sleep apnea as well as snoring, but surgical approaches are much less effective for both snoring and sleep apnea.

Snoring and sleep apnea are associated with elevated blood pressure; someone who snores and has high blood pressure should consider having a supervised overnight sleep study in a lab or at home to determine if apnea occurs and is causing the amount of oxygen in the blood to go down. Individuals should also be aware of other symptoms of apnea such as being sleepy during the day or at times when they would expect to be awake and alert. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, Dr. Phillips says that use of Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) "is the gold standard treatment." She says that working with doctors and therapists to use CPAP effectively results in objective improvement in patient performance and can facilitate lifestyle changes resulting in weight loss and a more positive outlook.

So what should you do about snoring? First, says Phillips, "Take it seriously. Check to see if it is snoring alone or is accompanied by apnea and resulting in other symptoms. Talk to your doctor if it may be apnea – untreated it increases the risk for stroke and even death." She suggests making lifestyle changes, checking for nasal obstructions and to consider dental devices for snoring, but to be cautious about irreversible procedures such as surgery or implants.

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