Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders

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Why the Doctor Treats Snoring Seriously

The movies and TV often depict snoring as funny, even hilarious. But snoring is no joke: It's a medical problem that can have serious health and social implications.

Up to half of adults snore at some time in their life. Of those, half are habitual snorers who may keep their partners awake just about every night by snoring in any sleeping positions, but most commonly when the snorer is on his or her back.

When you hear someone snoring, it means air is not flowing freely through the back of the throat. The sound occurs when air causes vibration of the soft palate and the uvula, the tiny pink flap of tissue that hangs down at the rear of your throat. Snoring may be caused by a number of things, including enlarged tonsils or allergies.

The average snorer is a man in his early 40s or older. In fact, snoring affects men more often than women. The risk increases with age for both men and women.  

Although snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), not all snorers have OSA. Primary snoring is snoring without the symptoms of sleep disruption, insomnia, or sleepiness during the daytime. About 20% to 50% of snorers may have OSA, a condition in which tissue if the upper airway obstructs the airway so that the person has very shallow breathing (hypopnea) or actually stops breathing (apnea). OSA is defined as having more than 5 apnea or hypopneas per hour with either microarousals to lighter sleep, or lowering of the body's oxygen by less than 4% each for 10 seconds or more. Microarousals are events in which a person goes from deeper to lighter sleep to improve muscle tone of the upper airway and allow better oxygen flow. Some people will even wake up gasping for breath. In severe cases, breathing may stop for 60 to 90 seconds up to several hundred times a night. 

People with OSA seldom feel well-rested, and decreased alertness during the day makes them more prone to accidents. Severe cases can cause a drop in oxygen, straining the heart. OSA is also a leading cause of high blood pressure.

The standard treatments for sleep apnea involve weight loss, not sleeping on your back, evaluation of the nasal passages and upper airway for obstruction (and surgical correction where necessary), and wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask on the nose while sleeping to help splint open the upper airway. Your doctor may also recommend other therapies, including a dental device fitted by a dentist to move the lower jaw forward slightly.

To limit snoring

  • Control your weight. Extra pounds can aggravate snoring.

  • Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquilizers. They blunt the body's drive to breathe, worsening sleep apnea.

  • Sleep on your side. On your back, the tongue tends to fall backward into the throat, reducing air flow. You snore as you breathe through your mouth to compensate.

  • Keep a routine schedule with adequate sleep. Lack of rest may worsen snoring.

  • Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Seven out of every ten Americans get out of bed in the morning unraveled and unrestored. Sometimes their sleep is disrupted because of life's stresses, illness, lifestyle excesses, or personal physical makeup. Untreated, these issues over time can develop into a chronic and serious disorder. Too often we tend to think that's just the way it is. But it doesn't have to be.

Some of the Disorders we diagnose and treat are:


• Snoring is the sound produced by obstructed breathing during sleep. People who snore have an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. More study is needed to determine whether those snorers at risk for more serious problems are people who have actual pauses in breathing while snoring, called sleep apnea.
• Sleep Apnea is a condition in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The time period for which the breathing stops or decreases is usually between 10 and 30 seconds. When these episodes occur repeatedly, sleep apnea can seriously disrupt the quality of sleep.
• Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurologic disorder. It is characterized by: Unpleasant sensations in the legs or an irresistible urge to move your legs
• Narcolepsy is a disorder of the nervous system. It results in frequent, involuntary, episodes of sleep during the day. Sleep attacks can occur while you drive, talk, or work.
• Insomnia is a poor quality sleep. This may mean a lack of sleep or difficulty staying asleep. Some have trouble falling asleep, or problems waking in the middle of the night or very early in the morning.

Remember, an untreated sleep disorder can seriously impact your health or even shorten your life. The price you pay for a bad night's sleep varies from poor perception and judgment, reduced efficiency or productivity, an irritable mood, even the inability to understand or retain information. A lack of sleep also makes you more susceptible to accidents.

Our physicians, who are board certified in Sleep Medicine, will diagnose the specific issue that's keeping you from a good night's sleep. We provide a broad range of services and treatments to get you back on the path to restorative sleep. And, should your diagnosis require equipment such as a CPAP machine, Valley Home Care staff can work closely with you and your physician to provide the equipment and support you need to be successful with your therapy.