Bellevue, Seattle Overview of Snoring & Sleep Apnea Procedures
Treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea comprises a significant portion of Dr. Zemplenyi’s practice. It is estimated that about sixty million of people in the United States suffer from snoring. While “heroic snoring” represents a significant, annoying social problem for spouses and roommates that can break up marriages and social relations, snoring also represents a marker for a potentially serious medical problem called obstructive sleep apnea.
Mild snoring and severe obstructive sleep apnea lie at the opposite ends of a spectrum of problems known as sleep disordered breathing. Vibrations of the soft palate and uvula, as well as other walls of the throat, cause snoring. Vibrations occur when there exists a pressure difference along portions of the upper respiratory tract due to partial airway obstruction. All snorers experience some degree of airway obstruction. However, obstructions in the upper respiratory tract airway can be severe enough to cause a disruption of sleep both in the patient and the awakened spouse.
Normal, natural, refreshing sleep consists of four different stages including the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. We must spent about twenty percent of the total sleep time in REM sleep in order to feel refreshed upon awakening. During REM sleep all of the skeletal muscles in the body lose their tone and become limp.
A patient with a throat anatomy and physiology set up for easy obstruction will block his airway most frequently in the REM stage of sleep causing cessation of breathing, choking and gasping associated with decreased oxygen saturation in the blood stream. Now, the brain compensates by a partial awakening and shifting out of REM sleep. By definition, patients with obstructive sleep apnea suffer from at least six episodes per hour of cessation of breathing for at least ten seconds and causing a measurable, significant drop in oxygen saturation. The repetitive cessation and shifting out of REM sleep results in inefficient, non-nourishing sleep. Not surprisingly, patients with sleep apnea suffer from fatigue, daytime sleepiness, higher rate of motor vehicle accidents and absenteeism from work. Sleep apnea is recognized as a distinct risk factor for heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke. It also exacerbate underlying diseases such as diabetes.
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