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 New Treatment for Snoring

It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans are affected by sleep disordered breathing.  The severity of the problem ranges from snoring, defined as noisy breathing when asleep, to Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), a potentially life-threatening condition.  As many as 23,000 deaths occur each year in this country in sleep-related accidents.  An international survey found that 16 percent of traffic accidents on highways and 10 percent of accidents on rural roads involve a sleepy driver.  The cost to the national economy in lost productivity is estimated in the billions of dollars each year.

One hundred years ago, people slept an average of 9 hours per night.  In today’s “wired” society, people sleep an average of 7 hours per night.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring can be a sign of serious health problems.  Both men and women who habitually snore are at higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.  Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome face additional risks to their health.  For many couples, loud snoring by a spouse or partner alters their relationship, interferes with normal activities, and adds unwanted stress in the form of sleep deprivation.

Causes of sleep disordered breathing include chronic nasal blockage, obesity, extra throat tissue or weak throat muscles.  Simple solutions include weight loss, avoiding alcohol or caffeine before bedtime, treating causes of nasal blockage, and sleeping on your side.  A variety of drugs and devices are available which offer snoring remedies.  Office surgery using a laser or high frequency radiowaves is an effective treatment but causes several days of sore throat.  A new technique called injection snoreplasty uses a simple injection in the roof of the mouth to cure snoring in 80% of patients and is now available locally.  It is safe, effective, and avoids prolonged throat discomfort associated with office surgery.

Snoring associated with difficulty breathing when sleeping may be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome which is a serious health problem.   The condition is diagnosed with a sleep study, a painless evaluation which occurs while a patient is sleeping.  Treatments include breathing additional oxygen under pressure when sleeping, termend Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP, or surgically enlarging the throat to prevent blockage when sleeping.

If you or a loved one have sleep disordered breathing, see your health professional for advice diagnosis and treatment options.