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Snoring (Adults)

What is snoring?

Snoring is a noise produced by structures within a person’s upper airway that vibrate while they are sleeping. It can be a sign of sleep apnoea. In some people it is only a soft noise or only occurs in certain positions. In others, it is a very loud noise that disrupts the sleep quality both of the individual snoring as well as those nearby. Some patients just snore others have snoring and sleep apnoea. There are additional treatments for sleep apnoea.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition where a person has pauses in their breathing during sleep. A pause is called an “apnoea” and be just a couple of seconds or as long as a minute or more. A shallow, abnormal breath is called a “hypopnoea”. People are often completely unaware that they have sleep apnoea and the diagnosis is often made by those sleeping nearby who observe the pauses in their breathing. Sleep apnoea can cause a range of health problems and always requires treatment.

How can an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist help with my snoring?

The first step in assessing a patient who snores is taking a careful history and performing a comprehensive examination. The history will look at factors such as the length of time a patient has snored, any exacerbating factors, recent weight loss and identify risk factors for sleep apnoea. The examination will assess the patient’s upper airway all the way from the nostrils to the trachea and lungs. Direct visualisation of any narrowings within the nose, mouth or throat can help to identify what is causing the snoring. All the different treatment options can then be discussed.

What types of treatments are available for snoring?

It is important to separate snoring in children versus snoring in adults. Snoring in children can be very detrimental to their normal development and always needs treatment.

In adults, the aim of treatment is to provide a more open, stable airway that does not collapse and vibrate at night during sleep. Patients with hay fever, nasal polyps, large adenoids, large tonsils, a large tongue base or a very small jaw can all benefit from treatment to address these problems which can help with their snoring. Occasionally snoring is a sign of something more sinister such as a growth in the airway that needs to be removed.

Treatments can be either through medicines (allergy treatment, steroid sprays) or through surgery. In adults two operations that are often recommended are a septoplasty and turbinoplasty to address a narrow nasal passage or a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty with tonsillectomy to address a narrow oropharynx (back of the mouth).

In order to evaluate what the best treatment is for your snoring, a comprehensive assessment is necessary.

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