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More to snoring than meets the eyes

Ever had sleepless nights from the loud snoring of your bed partner? Or have you been told that your snoring is annoying, intolerable or even worrisome? If your answer is yes, your bed partner or you should seek help! Dr Gan, an ENT Specialist from A Specialist Clinic for Sinus, Snoring & ENT will help answer some common questions about snoring and why the sufferer should be concerned about it.

What is snoring?

Snoring is a rattling or snorting sound produced due to some upper airway (breathing passageway) narrowing during sleep.

Why bother about snoring?

Majority of my patients come to me about their snoring problem because their bed partner has complained bitterly about it and has given them an ultimatum to get the problem fixed. However, many snorers are unaware that snoring does not affect just their bed partner and maybe a sign of a potentially serious health condition. This condition is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or OSA.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and how is this different from primary snoring?

When a person sleeps, the muscle around the upper airway relaxes and this can sometimes cause partial blockage of the upper airway. When air flows through a partially blocked upper airway, it becomes turbulent. Turbulent air results in vibration of the walls of the upper airway and produce the noise that we hear in someone who snores. If there are no breathing pauses or choking episodes during sleep, this is called primary snoring.

In patients with OSA, the upper airway blockage is severe enough to cause breathing pauses or choking episodes during sleep. The sufferer literally “stops breathing” or “chokes” for 10-30 seconds during sleep. At the end of the 10-30 seconds, the body has a “mini-awakening” episode known as arousal, resulting in the restoration of upper airway muscle tone and reopening of the upper airway. In patients with OSA, these “choking” episodes occur many times throughout the night.

How common is OSA in Singapore?

A local study showed that 3 in 10 middle-aged Singaporean male has OSA

What causes snoring and OSA?

Contrary to popular belief, snoring and OSA is not a problem of only overweight or obese male patients. It can happen to anyone with a predisposition for narrowing of the upper airway during sleep. These include patients who have the following conditions:

1) Blocked nose from nasal allergies, sinus infection and a deviated nasal septum

2) Large tonsils and adenoids