What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea in Lawrence?


What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea in Lawrence?

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In the past, snoring was considered a rather harmless, albeit annoying, habit. Little thought was given to why a person may snore, or what the medical effects may be. Today we know that heavy snoring is frequently a symptom of, or precursor to, obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that has been linked to stroke, Alzheimer's, cancer and more. Unfortunately, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for an afflicted individual to differentiate apnea from simple snoring.

Causes of snoring

Your airway is surrounded by muscles that, like other muscles in your body, relax when you go to sleep. As you reach the deeper stages of sleep, these muscles relax even more. In turn, this can decrease the size of the airway, similar to a soft-sided tube versus a hard-sided one. Ideally, there should still be plenty of room for air to pass through freely. If the airway is obstructed enough to make air passage difficult, it will cause the soft tissues to vibrate, creating the sound that we know as snoring.

When it's more that snoring

The scenario described above would be considered primary snoring. However, in some individuals the airway obstruction becomes severe enough to stop breathing activity completely during deep sleep. This is known as an apneic event, and it is silent because no air is moving through the airway. When blood oxygen levels drop, the brain registers distress, triggering a physiological reaction that disrupts sleep. As the person transitions to lighter stages of sleep, muscles begin contracting and breathing resumes.

Following an apneic event, there is typically very loud snoring, because the airway is still very restricted. This is known as secondary snoring, because it is actually a symptom of apnea rather than a self-contained problem. Although apneic events only last seconds, they may be repeated hundreds of times each night. Research indicates that this repetitive cycle of short-term oxygen deprivation may also affect the individual's vascular health, vital organs, and other bodily systems. Additionally, an apneic individual rarely maintains deep sleep for any significant length of time, depriving the mind and body of a vital rejuvenation cycle.

If you are a potential apnea patient, Dr. Les or Kelly Miller, of Lawrence, KS, can help you arrange an at-home sleep study, which is necessary to ascertain an accurate diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made, they can help you choose the best course of treatment. For many patients, the preferred solution is a lightweight, comfortable, custom-made oral appliance. Call us at 888.993.1707 to schedule a consultation.

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