Snoring occurs when air passes through the areas of resistance in the upper airways when one sleeps. Usually, the uvula, soft palate, tonsils, and back of the tongue contribute to the patient’s snoring. Even in children, sleep apnea can occur from enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
When awake, the muscles surrounding the throat provide support to the mentioned areas. But when sleeping, the throat muscles become relaxed, and air cannot pass freely through the mouth and throat.
Nasal blockages might be a factor for snoring.
Snoring sometimes interferes with the restful sleep of the partner. The unwelcome sounds produced during a deeper sleep cycle are due to the relaxed throat muscles and increased resistance. It results in less air passing into the lungs, thereby less oxygen in our circulation. Then, the brain compensates for less air by keeping the patient partially awake and gasping for air.
This cycle disrupts sleep quality. One of the cardinal symptoms of this sleep apnea is fatigue during the day. The constant need to take naps throughout the day and be less alert affects job performance and driving skills, which might be life-threatening. The risk factors for it are obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular conditions.
How does an ENT diagnose?
The specialist would ask you some questions about the length of time you have been snoring for if you have gained a significant amount of weight recently, and if you have, then how quickly. Sleep apnea does not always affect those who are overweight. The patients have other features in their anatomy that contribute to this issue.
The underactive thyroid gland, high blood pressure, or diabetes shall be another cause of concern for the specialist. For further evaluation, the specialist would ask you more about your fatigue levels during the day, if you often nap in the daytime and maybe, even ask your bed partner for valuable information.
The specialist performs an examination of the face and neck. The size and position of the tongue upon opening your mouth are noted. Tonsils are checked to find out if they are unusually large. Next, the thickness and the length of your soft palate and uvula are examined. The doctor will also examine you to find out if you are able to breathe through both sides of your nose.
If the situation necessitates, the ENT specialist may pass a flexible scope through your nose in order to get a clear picture of the back of your tongue and your lower throat.
To determine the events in your body while you are asleep, the ENT will order a sleep study, known as a polysomnogram. The analysis can either be performed at home or at local sleep centers.
It provides valuable information regarding the lack of breathing, blood oxygen levels, heart, and other objective data. Accordingly, you will be suggested CPAP or continuous positive air pressure to improve the oxygen flow in your circulation.