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FAQ About Snoring & Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from regular snoring, daytime fatigue and sleepiness, morning headaches and/or dry mouth, there’s a chance you, like so many others, have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). As leading specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, our team at NYC SleepWell has fielded hundreds of questions from concerned patients just like you.

Following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about snoring and sleep apnea. Of course, we’re always available if you have any others. Thank you for visiting our website. We look forward to helping you sleep well and be happy!

Q. Is snoring normal?

A. Most people snore to some degree. If snoring gets to the point where it becomes extremely loud and bothersome to others, or is accompanied with interrupted breathing, then this degree of snoring is not considered normal.

Q. What causes snoring?

A. Snoring is often caused by loose, weak or excessive tissue at the back of the throat which collapses into the airway during sleep. The tissue flutters or vibrates as air is breathed in. This fluttering, flapping tissue is the cause of the noise we know as snoring.

Q. Do men snore more than women?

A. Yes, snoring is much more prominent in men than women, primarily due to biological reasons. For example, the male voice box generally sits lower in the throat, which means there is a larger space left open in the airway. When the tongue relaxes during sleep, this larger space means it will only block part of the airway, leaving plenty of room for air vibration.

Q. What if my child snores?

A. If your child snores, it could mean that they need to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. It’s important to see a physician to assess the issue and resolve it early on in order to prevent problems that could evolve into sleep apnea and/or other disorders. Although not as common in children as adults, sleep apnea in children is an issue that can cause many problems including lack of focus and learning difficulties. It is often misdiagnosed as ADHD, so it’s essential to get the right diagnosis and treatment for your child.

Q. My spouse seems to gasp for air at night while they’re sleeping. What could this mean?

A. This could very well be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is potentially very dangerous to your spouse’s health. You should urge your spouse to see a sleep specialist/physician without delay.

Q. What exactly is sleep apnea?

A. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” — as in sleep apnea — refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. OSA can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and extreme fatigue and sleepiness.

Q. Is sleep apnea dangerous?

A. Yes! Sleep apnea has also been linked to heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, impotence, depression teeth grinding, gastric reflux, and many more serious side effects. Due to excessive sleepiness, tired drivers with sleep apnea have a higher propensity for auto accidents.

Q. What kind of tests are used to diagnose sleep apnea?

A. If, after an initial exam, your sleep specialist/physician determines that you should undergo an overnight sleep test to detect sleep apnea, there are two options. The first, called a polysomnography, requires that you sleep overnight in a sleep lab. You’ll be hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. The second option is a home sleep test, in which your doctor will provide you with equipment to take home so you can conduct a similar sleep test in your own bed. While more convenient and comfortable, the home sleep test does not provide the same amount of detailed information as the in-lab polysomnography. Based on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will guide you as to which test he or she thinks will be most effective for you.

Q. Is the CPAP machine the best treatment for sleep apnea?

A. Long considered as the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment, sleep specialists and physicians are reconsidering CPAP as the first line of treatment. This is primarily due to the fact that many patients stop using their CPAP machine because they find it to be uncomfortable and hard to sleep with. In addition, the CPAP machine is cumbersome and inconvenient for traveling – and it requires the use of distilled water, which is not always readily available. For these reasons, the alternative treatment options of custom oral appliances and surgical treatments are increasing in popularity.

Q. Do oral appliances really work in treating snoring and apnea?

A. Yes. Medical research has shown that oral appliance therapy is very effective for mild to moderate sleep apnea and very helpful for patients who cannot tolerate the CPAP machine.

Q. Are the inexpensive “boil and bite” mouthpieces I see advertised on TV intended to treat snoring and sleep apnea?

A. No. Those devices are designed only to stop snoring, not sleep apnea. Even for snoring, many find them to be ineffective. If you’re a regular snorer and suffer from the symptoms and side effects of sleep apnea, you should not risk masking the potentially dangerous side effects with a cheap store-bought device. Instead, make an appointment with an experienced sleep specialist to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea. If so, your sleep specialist can custom create an oral appliance for your anatomy and unique needs.

Q. Are surgical treatments a permanent solution for sleep apnea?

A. In many cases, they are. While many patients do opt for CPAP or custom oral appliances for treatment, they are not actual cures for sleep apnea. Having a surgical treatment to remove excess tissue from the palate or throat, or surgical treatment to advance your tongue forward are considered to be a more permanent solution, although sleep apnea can always return. The best thing is to explore all options with your sleep specialist/physician – including the wide variety of available out-patient surgical treatments.

Q. How does weight affect snoring and sleep apnea?

A. Weight has a very direct impact on one’s snoring and sleep apnea. In fact, the severity of sleep-disordered breathing will fluctuate with the ups and downs of one’s weight gains and losses. If a patient is overweight, weight loss is often recommended as the first step in treatment.

Q. Does insurance cover sleep apnea treatments?

A. Most medical insurance plans and Medicare do cover sleep study tests and treatment if prescribed by a certified physician/sleep specialist. However, each plan is different based on deductibles and requirements. At NYC SleepWell, we are always available to help you with your insurance information and contact your insurance company to help determine your benefits.

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