Medical Cures for Snoring
Snoring occurs when structures of the throat, such as the soft palate and the uvula, vibrate, resulting in the development of noise. Depending on the individual, noise can range from being quiet to being very loud. Snoring, while not a dangerous issue, can heavily affect the quality of life of an individual as well as their family members. It is an issue that is not only restricted to the patient but also extends to their partner, which can cause sleep deprivation, depression, daytime sleepiness, fogginess and decreased sexual activity. Moreover, research has found that patients who snore have a 67% higher risk of developing a stroke than people that don’t snore and the risk of heart disease are 37% higher in patients that snore than patients that don’t. This is an issue that is not just restricted to a small group of people as approximately 45% of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25% snore on a regular basis. Fortunately, research has been conducted in this area and there have been a plethora of medical advances that have helped alleviate snoring for many people. Here we outline six medical cures that have been created to stop or lessen the frequency of snoring.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
Snoring can be the result of a disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea, which is a common disease that affects 3-7% of the entire population. People with sleep apnea either experience a momentarily lapse in breathing throughout the night or they are subjected to very shallow breathing all night. Since this is a chronic and long-term disorder with no overt cure, this can really affect a person’s lifestyle. Therefore, one of the medical treatments that have emerged as a treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine, which uses contact airway pressure to force the throat to fully open during the night, which helps prevent the stopping of breathing. The CPAP machine can either lessen or eliminate snoring completely.
The CPAP machine, however, is not just used to help people that have sleep apnea. Many people snore but do not have sleep apnea and the CPAP machine has been used to treat a variety of these patients. Some of the reasons for the utilization of the CPAP machine outside of sleep apnea include:
- People who snore because their tongue drops to the base of their mouth when they sleep on their back.
- Misshapen jaws can cause muscle tension, which can lead to snoring.
- Nasal passage blockage, which can occur during sickness, allergies or be chronic.
- Additional tissue or fat present in the throat.
- If the nasal or airway tissue is too close to each other, that can lead to vibrations upon touching and cause snoring.
- The weakness of throat muscles which leads to closing of the throat during sleep, and therefore snoring.
- Substances such as alcohol that can relax the muscles in the throat and lead to snoring during the night.
Experts believe the CPAP machine can be used to treat a variety of these issues that can cause snoring, despite their very different underlying reasons. While it is hard to determine which is the best CPAP machine, as that varies from person to person and depends on individual needs, there are some that are consistently rated as better than others. The ResMed Airsense 10 Autoset with Heated Humidifier has received rave reviews due to several characteristics including new technological features, extensive capabilities, easily useable, the level of sound and other qualities. This device is very advanced and records a patient’s sleep apnea information and statistics. It allows the statistics to be loaded onto a computer and be easily sent to the physician. However, it is more expensive than others and if that is a concern then the Dreamstation Auto by Philips Respironics is also a great model. This is one of the new CPAP machines that has a built-in Bluetooth and Wi-fi which allows the sleep apnea statistics to be transferred from the machine to the computer. As a plus, it is smaller and lighter than most machines and comes with a year of filters at no extra cost. Thus, if you are looking for a CPAP machine on a budget, look no further.
Custom Fitted MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device)
One of the ways to treat sleep apnea is the utilization of a particular device that is orally applied called a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). These are a custom designed mold by dentists to fit the specific shape of everyone’s teeth and mouth. These work to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and are effective at eliminating snoring. The way this product works is that it moves the patient’s jaw forward, which causes an increase in the upper airway size, which reduces air resistance and leads to sleep apnea and snoring. This is a less aggressive method of treating sleep apnea and is used as an alternative to the more aggressive method of surgery and as a less cumbersome method to the CPAP machine. It is especially used in conjunction with lifestyle changes such as losing weight. Essentially, these are anti-snoring devices that lessen airway turbulence and decrease snoring. However, these are mostly effective in patients with milder forms of sleep apnea.
There are many advantages to using custom fit MADs for the treatment of snoring such as the fact it is a small device that can fit easily in a pocket and therefore, can also be traveled with. The device is also not visible when the mouth is closed, which is an advantage for some patients that are worried about their partner seeing it. It also leads to an immediate improvement in snoring with many people noticing significant alleviation on the first night. Furthermore, unlike the CPAP machine, MADs don’t use electricity and therefore, it is a more economical purchase for the long-term. Lastly, patients have been found to be more compliant to custom fitted MADs than any other treatments for snoring. However, there are some side effects to the use of these devices which can include TMJ, temporal mandibular joint arthritis or oral pain, however, these are minimal. There are a plethora of companies that sell these devices and it is important to pick the right one.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgical procedure that results in the removal of extra tissue that is present in the throat, which allows the airway to expand and relieves snoring as more air can go through the airway upon breathing. This procedure can remove some specific parts of the throat including the uvula (piece of tissue which hangs in the back of the mouth), the soft palate (the roof of the mouth) and other additional throat tissue, tonsils, and pharynx if there is an excess. Recovery from surgery is approximately three weeks, but it is a painful recovery and patients usually have a tough time being able to swallow. The post-operative recovery is very hard on the patients, and in fact, only 60% of the patients say they would undergo surgery again.
Surgery is very rarely used to treat snoring and is only considered in patients who have extreme snoring and other remedies have not worked. It is conducted in patients who have excess fat or tissue in their throat, and therefore, no treatment will be able to remedy that issue or in the case where lifestyle changes such as weight loss, using a CPAP machine and changing sleeping positions does not work. Exact estimates of the effectiveness of this treatment are hard to obtain but experts say that it cures snoring in 46-73% of patients in the long-term. Some complications can result from this surgery including damage of surrounding blood vessels and tissues. Complications can also include sleepiness, swelling, pain, infection, bleeding, and trouble swallowing. There can also be a drainage of secretions into the nose which can affect the nasal quality of the voice. Speech can also be affected by these secretions. One last thing to consider is that as snoring is not always categorized as a medical issue, insurance may not cover the treatment, therefore, it would have to be an out of pocket expense.
LUAP (Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty)
LUAP, which stands for Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty, refers to a surgery that is conducted under either local or general anesthesia and is a safer version of the UPPP surgery. The surgery involves using a laser to cause vaporization of the free edge of the soft palate and the uvula. This allows the uvula to be shortened and which gets rid of the obstruction that is causing the snoring. This procedure is an outpatient procedure that can be conducted in multiple steps to obtain the eventual effects of the alleviation of snoring, and the number of times that it needs to be repeated depends on the degree of severity of each patient. Usually, patients require a maximum of four sessions but most need about two or three. This procedure does not remove a patient’s tonsils as a laser is used. Laser surgery tends to have fewer complications than UPPP, however, post-surgical pain is still reportedly severe.
Clinical trials have been conducted to determine the difference between UPPP and LAUP, with results showing that post-surgical pain was similar between the two procedures. Pain associated with the surgery reaches its height in approximately 1 week and generally subsides in two weeks. One of the disadvantages of this procedure is that due to the intensity of the pain, often patients won’t go to their subsequent sessions after the first as they do not want to endure similar pain again. The treatments are normally about four to eight weeks apart, and therefore as the pain has started to subside from the previous treatment, they would have to undergo the treatment again. Furthermore, the surgery often does not help with snoring long-term as studies have indicated that after two years’ post-surgery, only partners of half the patients are satisfied with the change in snoring levels. In addition, it is a complicated procedure for patients that have a strong gag reflex as it requires the widening of the mouth and an insertion of the machine to the back of the throat.
Snoring can often be caused by the position that an individual sleeps in. Sleeping on the side is the best position for people who are prone to snoring while sleeping on their back. When habitual snorers sleep on their back, the snores become louder and deeper. The anti-snoring pillow was created to address this issue as it is shaped in a way that it supports the patient’s neck in a position which keeps the airway open. The pillow is created from memory foam and therefore, it is soft and allows for a comfortable sleep, while keeping the airway open.
One of the key issues with these pillows is that many consumers complain the pillows are not very comfortable. Furthermore, while it generally does work, often the patient’s head won’t necessarily stay on the pillow that they sleep on at night and therefore, there is no guarantee this remedy will work. There are some advantages to using anti-snore pillows as it is one of the most economical remedies with no chance of any side effects, such as with surgery. There are also anti-snore pillows that are designed for people who like to sleep to on their back, which works by keeping the chin elevated off the chest, and allows the air passage to stay open. One particularly popular brand is the SharperImage anti-snore pillow which has been clinically tested to show a decrease in snoring levels. The SONA anti-snoring pillow is another well-rated pillow which has been approved by the FDA as a medical device to the treatment of sleep apnea and snoring. Similar to most anti-snore pillows, it encourages people who sleep on their back to sleep on their side, which helps keep the airway open.
While snoring can be hard for both the patient and their partner, there are now medical advancements in the field that can allow snoring to be cured. It is important to carefully research each option and determine which way is the right method for you. Factors such as recovery time, cost, pain, and level of effectiveness all come into play when making such a significant and vital decision.
The SONA is no longer available. For an updated list of pillows that help with snoring view our snoring pillows reviews section.