Dr. Steven B. Syrop of NYC and Westchester's Briarcliff Manor, NY know that snoring is more than just annoying; it can be dangerous too. Snoring can be a major cause of sleep interruptions and may even lead to sleep deprivation. Snoring can ruin relationships. Studies found scientific evidence that snoring has a negative impact on the non-snoring mate.

SLEEP APNEA is more serious than snoring. It occurs when the airway is completely blocked for more than 10 seconds sometimes much longer. Without air coming in the oxygen level in the blood drops and person’s heart rate increases and blood pressure goes up as the body struggles with decreasing oxygen levels. Numerous other biochemical changes take place leading to serious medical problems.

WHAT CAUSES SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA.  Snoring is caused when the soft tissues of the throat, (soft palate, uvula, tongue and tonsils), relax during sleep and block the passage of air. As the air moves through the constricted area, the soft tissues vibrate and rattle, producing the distinctive sound known as "snoring." Snoring often gets worse from colds, allergies, use of drugs or alcohol, smoking, being overweight and aging. When the airway becomes completely closed no air passes through and it is called apnea (absence of breath).

HOW IS SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA TREATED?  There are three options available, CPAP  (Continuous Passive Air Pressure), Oral Appliances and Surgery.  CPAP is the most effective treatment but compliance is very low. A machine pumps air into a nose or facemask and keeps the airway open. Many people find it difficult to use. Surgery is an option for some people if there is an obvious anatomical obstruction that can be removed.  For snoring and mild to moderate apnea an oral appliance is an appropriate choice.

HOW DOES AN ORAL APPLIANCE WORK?  An oral appliance moves the lower jaw forward, which in turn prevents the tongue from obstructing the airway.  The appliance fits on the upper and lower teeth and can be adjusted to bring the lower jaw to the ideal position to keep the airway open.

WHAT ELSE CAN SOMEONE DO TO HELP WITH SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA?  Weight reduction is the single best thing to do if someone is over weight. Just 10 to 15 pounds of weight loss will make a significant difference. Alcohol consumption or taking sedatives causes the muscles that hold the airway open to collapse.  Reducing alcohol or sedative medications will also reduce snoring and sleep apnea.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE SLEEP APNEA?  A physician trained in sleep medicine makes the diagnosis of sleep apnea.  The gold standard is the polysomnogram or sleep study.  It can be done overnight in a sleep lab or with a portable monitor at home. It needs to be interpreted by a trained doctor.  The bed partner many times may witness the apnea episodes; that is strong evidence.  There are certain questionnaires that can evaluate risk factors to give an estimate of the chance of apnea.