Snoring occurs when the muscles of neck relax during sleep, allowing the structures of the nose and mouth to to fall backwards against the back of the throat, constricting the airway. As long as the person is breathing regularly and exchanging air, the only problem is for other people in the room. However, many snorers actually stop breathing several times during the night, which is a medical condition called sleep apnea. It can be life-threatening over lengthy periods.
Apneic events cause constriction of the blood vessels which raises blood pressure by as much as 25% and overworking the heart. Chronic hypertension, heart failure, heart dysrhythmias, and stroke can all be caused by chronic sleep apnea, leading to death. When the body cannot breath during sleep, it wakes up so the person with apnea can breathe. Therefore, these individuals are often very tired and sleepy during the day. Impaired memory, concentration, irritability, driving skills, and poor job performance are all common side effects of sleep apnea.
Dentists can help identify people with sleep apnea and may be very effective in helping to treat both snoring and sleep apnea, along with a physician trained in managing sleeping disorders. Various types of dental appliances are available to help keep the airway open during sleep and reduce snoring. If you or someone you know suffers from any of the above symptoms or snores heavily, please seek advice from your dentist or your family physician before it’s too late.