Snoring: A tennis ball can save your love life

by Denise Wagner on December 30, 2012

The trouble with having too much alcohol circulating when the head hits the pillow is that it reduces muscle tone and therefore allows greater vibration of the soft tissues in the upper airways. These tissues always lose some tone in sleep, and this is increased by alcohol and sleeping pills.

It is the vibration of the soft tissue that creates the noise we call snoring. The actual sound can originate from any or all parts of the back of the mouth, from the soft palate to the base of the tongue. Any other swellings in the throat and neck, including enlarged tonsils and some thyroid problems, can cause snoring. One interesting factor that tends to increase the likelihood of being a snorer is the shape of the jaw.

The chinless wonder so beloved by P.G. Wodehouse is likely to be a heavy snorer, since a receding lower jaw is associated with upper airway narrowing at the base of the tongue.

Simple snoring may be socially undesirable, but snoring secondary to sleep disorder is an important medical problem. This form of sleep disorder is of the crescendo type, where the noise grows louder and louder before there is silence and the patient ceases to breathe for a moment.

Previously it was thought that the inadequate sleep of the crescendo snorer was the result of these breathing pauses, but it is now thought that the patient is recurrently woken by the increased effort needed to breathe, hence the sleepiness next day.

The first step in more intensive treatment may be to recommend a continuous positive airway pressure machine. This involves the patient’s head and neck being fitted with masks and tubes so that they look, rather unromantically, like a 1930s diver. Dental appliances can be attached so that the jaw is held forward.

Only rarely is surgery to the palate recommended, since trimming it only modifies one of the sites where the snore may have originated.

Pages: 1 2

To read or respond to comments for this post click here

Previous post:

Next post: