Primary snoring is characterized by loud upper airway sounds during sleep. As much as 60% of the population snores at one time or another and the prevalence increases with age. Although primary snoring is not life threatening, it can be considered a social nuisance. In recent polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 31% of Americans take measures to deal with their partner's snoring on a regular basis. These include sleeping in another room or using earplugs to block the noise. Many treatments are available for snoring, including nasal strips, throat sprays, prescription nose medications, mouth guards and various surgical procedures aimed at reducing the amount of tissue at the back of the throat.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is characterized by the recurrent collapse of the upper airway at the level of the soft palate and tongue during sleep. Obesity, facial deformities and enlarged upper airway structures can contribute to the airway's collapse. Apneas are associated with oxygen deprivation and can cause cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats, during sleep. Although generally unnoticed by the sleeper, apneas cause repetitive and brief arousals, leading to poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness. Patients suffering from OSA may experience difficulty with concentration or memory, poor mood control, impotence or feelings of depression. They may also suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure or abnormal heartbeats. If left untreated, OSA can increase the risk for sudden heart attack or stroke by as much as 60%. The good news is OSA is a very treatable condition. Treatment options can range from Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to surgery to dental implants.
A careful sleep history and an overnight sleep study are used to distinguish primary snoring from OSA.