Snoring and Why It Matters

Leduc Snoring Sleep Apnea

Snoring… it’s just snoring!! How could something so seemingly innocuous be harmful? – it’s just a noise people make when they sleep after all.

Well, it turns out that snoring is often a sign that you or your loved one are not breathing properly while you are sleeping. Many people have heard of the REM sleep. During REM sleep you dream intense dreams, and in order to prevent you from acting out your dreams, your body relaxes all of your muscles. These relaxed muscles include your throat and neck muscles, which are important for keeping your airway open. In a normal individual, the airway will stay open regardless, and breathing continues unimpeded. In a person with a small airway due to a retruded lower jaw (think Bart Simpson), or a person with extra weight around their throat (think Peter Griffin), the airway can close due to a lack of support from the muscles.

Now that the airway is very small or even closed, the body cannot bring air in or push air out of your airway without great effort – the air squeezing through the loose tissue creates snoring. As the ability to breathe decreases, so does your blood oxygen level while your carbon dioxide levels go up. The raised carbon dioxide levels alert your brain to the fact that you need to breathe – and now!! Thus you wake up out of REM sleep, but just enough to tense your throat muscles and open your airway.  This can happen multiple times an hour, and if it happens often enough (greater than 5 times) you can be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

As you can imagine, if you are always waking up from REM sleep, you may have a difficult time feeling refreshed the next morning. The pressure that builds up in your chest as you try to push the air out, can increase your blood pressure and cause blood pressure spikes while you sleep. The pressure can also push stomach acids into your throat, creating the sensation of heart burn. Oddly enough about 80% of those with sleep apnea also grind their teeth – which is often how I spot these patients in my chair.

The consequences can be dire. Obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of dying by 3 times, and your risk of dying due to heart attack or stroke by 5 times. It also substantially increases your risk of falling asleep while driving, not to mention erectile dysfunction, chronic headaches, and mental illness.

So beware of things like daytime sleepiness, teeth grinding, high blood pressure, acid reflux, heart problems, psychiatric problems, or SNORING!!! These, among others, can all be signs of obstructive sleep apnea.

Below are a couple of forms commonly used to screen for sleep apnea, if you score 8 or higher on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, 2 or higher on the BMI questionnaire, or 3 or higher on the Subjective Sleepiness scale, you should speak with your Dentist or Doctor about doing a sleep study.

Good luck, and sweet dreams.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to visit our Facebook Page, email (info@prairiedental.ca), call us (780-986-6255) or just come in for a visit.

Dr. Jack Gordon

Epworth Sleepiness Scale
Please indicate how likely you are to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations:
(0=never, 1=slight, 2=moderate, 3=high chance of dozing) – CIRCLE ONE RESPONSE FOR EACH QUESTION
Sitting and reading……………………………………………………. 0 1 2 3
Watching television…………………………………………………… 0 1 2 3
Sitting in a public place……………………………………………….. 0 1 2 3
As a passenger in a car for one hour……………………………….. 0 1 2 3
Driving a car stopped for a few minutes in traffic………………….. 0 1 2 3
Sitting & talking to someone…………………………………………. 0 1 2 3
Sitting down quietly after lunch without alcohol…………………… 0 1 2 3
Lying down to rest in the afternoon…………………………………. 0 1 2 3
Total Score: ______

 
BMI Questionnaire
Fill in the blanks, circle one yes or no response for each question
No(0) Yes(1)
BMI (click for BMI Calculator): ______ Is it greater than or equal to 30? 0 1
Neck Circumference ______ Is it >17” (Men) or >15”(Women)? 0 1
Have you gained at least 15lbs in the past 6 months? 0 1
Total Score: ______

 
Subjective Sleep Evaluation
Please circle one yes or no response for each question No(0) Yes(1)
Do you snore?.......................................................................................................... 0 1
You, or your spouse, would consider your snoring louder than a person talking…. 0 1
Your snoring occurs almost every night……………………………………………….. 0 1
Your snoring is bothersome to your bed partner…………………………………....... 0 1
Do you feel that in some way your sleep is not refreshing or restful?..................... 0 1
Do you wake up at night or in the mornings with headaches?................................ 0 1
Do you experience fatigue during the day and have difficulty staying awake?....... 0 1
Do you have trouble remembering things or paying attention during the day?....... 0 1
Do you have high blood pressure?......................................................................... 0 1
Total Score: ______