& Sleep Disorders
What causes Snoring?
Why is Snoring a concern?
Snoring is usually caused by flexible tissues
in the throat which vibrate as a person breathes
at night, causing the production of a noise. One
part of the throat which commonly causes snoring
sounds is the soft palate (the back part of the
roof of the mouth). Other structures that can cause
snoring are the tongue, tonsils, adenoids, and
even problems with the nose can cause or aggravate
the problem. Excess weight, alcohol intake, or
smoking can also worsen snoring.
In some instances, snoring
is simply an inconvenience for the sleeping partner.
In other cases, the sleeping partner finds it impossible
to get quality sleep due to the snoring. Sometimes
snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
This is a potentially serious medical disorder
in which the snorer stops breathing repeatedly
throughout the night and may have significant drops
in oxygen levels of the blood. When this condition
is present for months and years, it can place significant
strain on the heart and lungs and affect the overall
health of the patient, potentially shortening his
or her life in the long run.
How is a patient with
The evaluation begins with a careful history and
examination of the airway by the ENT physician.
Some patients will require a detailed study of
their sleep patterns in a Sleep Laboratory. This
is called a sleep study. Once the cause or causes
for the snoring have been identified, treatment
options are discussed.
How is Snoring treated?
Non-surgical treatments of snoring include weight
loss and avoidance of sedatives and alcohol, particularly
in the evening. Some patients consider a bite splint
worn in the mouth to reposition the jaw during
Surgical options may also be considered. In patients
with clear airway obstruction, such as large tonsils
or significant nasal airway obstruction, surgery
can be directed specifically at these areas. If
there is not a significant airway obstruction on
evaluation, then the most likely site of production
of the snoring noise is the soft palate.
The treatments for snoring have been directed
at the soft palate for some time now with good
success. Recently, a laser procedure has been used
to reduce the size of the soft palate and reduce
or completely eliminate snoring; however, this
procedure has been complicated by significant pain
during the recovery period.
Another option for the management of snoring is Somnoplasty and can be performed in the office under local anesthesia. The soft palate is numbed with
a local anesthetic. Then a very small needle is
placed into the soft palate and is connected to
a computer. This computer delivers a very specific
amount of energy to the needle, which causes a
mild burn on the inside of the soft palate. Over
the next several weeks, as the body heals, the
scarring process inside the soft palate causes
it to contract and tighten. This leads to significant
improvements in snoring in most patients.
Somnoplasty has significant advantages over previous
techniques. Some patients do have pain with the
procedure, but the majority of patients have minimal
or no pain. The procedure does not require incisions
and is much less invasive than previous techniques.
It also has proven effectiveness. Somnoplasty is
available for patients at Eastern Carolina Ear,
Nose, and Throat - Head and Neck Surgery, Inc.
For more information about Somnoplasty, click
The Somnoplasty technique has also been adapted
for use in patients with nasal obstruction. The
nasal turbinates are structures in the nose which
filter and humidify the air. In some patients,
the turbinates are enlarged and cause difficulty
with nasal breathing. The turbinates can be anesthetized
in the office and treated in exactly the same manner
by using the somnoplasty device, and the results
have been very positive. Again, this has the same
benefits as somnoplasty for the soft palate. It
is very non-invasive and there is minimal or no
pain following the procedure. The improvement generally
takes place over the following two to six weeks.
- Somnoplasty is a registered trademark of Somnus