While snoring is often thought to be a non-medical problem, it can have a significant negative effect on marriage and relationships, so evaluation and consideration for treatment should be considered. In addition, snoring is potentially a symptom of a serious sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
The incidence of snoring and sleep apnea in the general population varies. These conditions are more common in older men, and may be caused or worsened by obesity and alcohol ingestion. The anatomic source of snoring can usually be identified in-office by our otolaryngologists, with a local anesthesia examination involving a small, flexible fiber-optic endoscope.
The sound of snoring is usually caused by flapping or vibration of the uvula – the extension of tissue hanging from the middle of the soft palate in the back of the mouth. This vibration is caused by collapse of the soft tissues in the throat (pharynx), with intermittent opening of the tissues to allow inhalation. Through electrocardiograms and objective measurements of airflow, muscular movement and oxygen saturation, Weill Cornell Medicine sleep specialists are able to characterize the severity of symptoms that can lead to potentially deadly conditions including Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Our specialists document episodes of obstruction as well as associated adverse consequences of obstruction, including de-oxygenation, poor ventilation and or abnormal heart rhythms.
Treatments for snoring depend on the severity of the disorder and whether sleep apnea is also present. Simple lifestyle modifications, including weight loss, avoiding alcoholic beverages, and not sleeping on the back, may be very effective. Oral appliances worn at night have also been shown to be effective for a substantial amount of patients. Other options include surgical modifications of the palate and pharynx, including Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) – a removal, in stages, of excess vibrating throat tissue, performed in-office under local anesthesia. Although frequently accompanied by mild post-operative pain, LAUP treatments enjoy a high success rate. If necessary, other surgical options should be discussed with your otolaryngologist.