Being jolted awake in the middle of the night by snoring is an obvious cause for frustration. And, it may be cause for concern. Snoring is often an indicator of more serious health conditions. "There are a variety of sleep disorders; however, the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)," states Allen J. Salm, MD
, Virtua Health pulmonologist. "A person with OSA may snore because of a partial obstruction of air flow in the air passage."
There are many treatments for OSA. Initially, a person diagnosed with OSA will use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a specially designed nasal mask while sleeping. The mask is hooked up to a machine that forces air to the back of the throat to keep it open. For some, surgery to remove the excess tissue at the back of the throat may be an option. Performed by either an oral surgeon or an otolaryngologist — ear, nose, throat specialist (ENT) — this surgery opens the air passage to restore air flow.
A slightly less common sleep disorder is central sleep apnea. This occurs when ineffective signals from the brain to the lungs cause a person to stop breathing. If left untreated, this condition can put a person at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, depression, high blood pressure and low oxygen levels.
"The key to treatment of these conditions is early recognition followed by appropriate evaluation by a sleep specialist," says Dr. Salm. A sleep study requires an overnight stay in the lab where the patient's brain waves, eye movement, heart rate and oxygen levels are monitored. The physician uses the results to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. For more information, call 1-888-Virtua-3