Snoring is extremely common—one of the most common presenting symptoms to a sleep clinic. I had the good fortune to work with Professor Colin Sullivan, a pioneer of the sleep field and inventor of CPAP for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. I have dedicated my career to finding patient- friendly solutions for snoring and sleep apnea.
Snoring is the audible component of tissue vibrations occurring in the throat passage as air passes through it. Most commonly it occurs while breathing in, but it can also occur while breathing out. The tissue vibrations originate around the soft palate or tongue area, and these produce qualitatively different types of sounds.
Although snoring is generally considered a social problem through disturbance to the bed partner, it can be a marker of an underlying medical disorder called obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing pauses occur during sleep. There are multiple factors that can trigger snoring, including nasal obstruction (eg. deviated nasal septum or hayfever), being overweight, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
IDENTIFYING WORRISOME SYMPTOMS
A key trigger for seeking medical attention is if the partner witnesses breathing pauses or stoppages during sleep, or if the person themselves wakes up choking or gasping. Also, in individuals with chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and strokes, the presence of snoring may be a strong indicator of obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring is never normal, and many treatments exist. So early discussion of the problem with your family doctor is highly advisable to prevent it from worsening over time.
Dr. Cistulli of the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney and Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia has been working in the field of sleep for 30 years.