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Baylor College of Medicine News

Snoring may be cause for alarm

Is snoring keeping you or your significant other from getting a good night’s sleep? It could be a serious issue that needs your attention, according to a sleep expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Loud snoring, daytime sleepiness and waking up with a sore throat in the morning are all symptoms of sleep apnea," said Dr. Mary Rose, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at BCM.

Categories of sleep disorders

Sleep apnea is a respiratory sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, said Rose.

Generally, these pauses are defined as apneas, complete cessation of breathing; hypopneas, a 30 percent reduction of breathing; or respiratory effort related arousals, awakenings due to disrupted breathing. When people have more than five of these events per hour of sleep, they are classified as having sleep apnea, said Rose.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea may include depression and concentration problems. Women are more likely than men to complain of insomnia as a symptom of sleep apnea.

Causes of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is more common as we age, and more common in men than women. However, it is also more common in postmenopausal women due to a decrease in estrogen in the body.

If left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Memory and concentration problems and chronic headaches are also common consequences. Untreated people are more likely to have job impairment and absenteeism from work.

One reason that sleep specialists will recommend that patients not drive until apnea is treated is that motor vehicle crashes are common in those who go untreated. Because these individuals sometimes have sudden sleep attacks, these accidents are often deadly, said Rose.

Treatments

The most effective treatment for moderate or severe sleep apnea is a positive airway pressure device, which opens the obstruction in the airway that causes sleep apnea by pushing room air through a mask into the nose and sometimes mouth.

For moderate to mild sleep apnea, surgery may be able to correct a crowded airway. An oral appliance that brings the lower jaw forward, thereby creating more room for the airway, is another treatment option.