Is snoring a symptom of something more?

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea?

Approximately 9 million people produce loud snoring during their sleep. The every night snoring can become a nuisance to the sleep partner who is being kept up all night because of the loud noise. This may lead to constant elbowing and nudging, or a sleep partner who eventually retreats to another room to get a good night’s sleep.  

According to a study by the American Sleep Apnea Association, more than 41 percent of women who stated they need a good night’s sleep have said the reason they are unable to sleep is because of to a snoring sleep partner. While about half of these snorers are just “primary snorers,” the other half could have a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. 

Snoring is caused by relaxed tissues in the throat that partially block the airway and vibrate, causing a snoring sound. The sound of the vibration can be louder or softer depending on the person’s anatomy as well as his/her lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and body weight. A person with OSA almost always produces loud frequent snoring in addition to having pauses in breathing and gasping and choking. 

“Before prematurely dismissing the problem, you may want to ask your primary care physician to refer you for a sleep study,” said Dr. Colin Bailey, a family practice physician on staff at River Parishes Hospital. “More than just a noisy nuisance, snoring and sleep apnea can have serious health ramifications.”

If you or your partner is a frequent loud snorer, stops breathing, gasps or chokes during sleep, experiences excessive restlessness at night or feels sleepy during the day, you may want to bring it up with your physician to see whether a sleep study is necessary.  OSA sufferers usually move out of deep sleep into light sleep when their breathing pauses,  which lessen their quality of sleep, leaving them feeling tired when they wake up. Inadequate sleep can also cause weight gain, memory loss and skin aging. Studies have even listed untreated OSA as a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. 

“Don’t underestimate the health risks associated with sleep apnea,” said Bailey. “Your health depends on a good night’s sleep.” 

A definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea can only be made with a sleep study conducted during a visit to a sleep lab. During a sleep study, patients stay the night in a private, sleep study room while being evaluated by a technologist in an adjacent room who monitors brain waves, muscle tone, eye movements, heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration, oxygen levels and leg movements during sleep. The results of the study provide data to assist the physician in diagnosing a sleep disorder and recommending treatment options.

River Parishes Hospital offers a certified Sleep Lab located inside of the hospital. Sleep studies are available seven days a week in the evenings from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. All studies are interpreted by Dr. Bogdan Nowakowski, a physician who is board certified in Sleep Medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. 

Snoring treatments can range from lifestyle alterations, such as weight loss, a decrease in alcohol consumption and changing sleeping positions, to oral devices, nasal strips and surgery in severe cases. Treatment of OSA often involves the use of a CPAP, a blower connected by a tube to a mask that fits over the mouth or nose and blows air to maintain a continuous pressure in the airway. This constant pressure keeps the airway from collapsing to allow normal breathing. CPAP devices are very effective but can be uncomfortable and embarrassing to some patients.

A new technology called Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure was recently developed and has proven to be successful with OSA patients. EPAP is gentle backpressure during expiration which stabilizes the upper airway where snoring occurs. The non-invasive, single use nasal device attaches over the nostrils and is secured in place by an adhesive. The valve opens and closes, redirecting air through small holes to create resistance when a person breathes out. There are also some over-the-counter therapies that utilize EPAP technology which have been effective in treating snoring patients. 

If you or your partner experiences any of the symptoms of snoring or sleep apnea, talk to your physician. There are treatment options available to help improve your quality of life. For more information about sleep apnea, visit the American Sleep Apnea Association at For information about sleep studies or the certified sleep lab available at River Parishes Hospital, call 985-653-1699 or visit the hospital’s website at


Dr. Colin Bailey is a family practice Physician on staff at River Parishes Hospital. He is affiliated with the practices of Dr. Andrew St. Martin, a family practice physician, and Dr. Ben Tegala, an internal medicine physician, at the LaPlace Medical Center. Their office is located at 735 W. 5th St. in LaPlace. Appointments may be made by calling 985-652-9504.