For many people, snoring is considered to be little more than a minor nuisance for a bed partner. But seeking medical treatment for snoring may be critical-if the problem is severe, it could pose serious health hazards, including heart disease and diabetes.
Treatment for snoring begins with understanding the nature and severity of your condition, which helps your doctor determine the best way to correct the problem. You can measure snoring either at home or at a hospital or special sleep clinic. At-home measurements involve a specially designed laptop computer that monitors your sleeping pattern throughout the night, including your oxygen levels and the frequency, duration and volume of snoring. Depending on each patient's situation, a variety of treatments are available:
Mouthpieces: For mild cases of snoring, a custom-fit oral appliance can be used to alter the position of the tongue, palate or jaw to reduce snoring. These devices are designed to prevent the tongue from falling back toward the throat and blocking natural airways. Consult your doctor about having a mouthpiece custom-fitted for you.
Masks (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)): To address more serious cases of snoring, a facial mask can be worn overnight to help push air into the nose, throat and lungs to open up airways and improve consistency of oxygen intake. Some patients find the device to be uncomfortable to use, however, and the bulky apparatus may also be cumbersome for bed partners. Those who find themselves intolerant to the masks may want to consider the "Pillar Procedure" or other surgical options.
Pillars: The Pillar Procedure is a minimally invasive treatment option that is ideal for cases of mild to moderate snoring. Requiring a local anesthetic, the procedure involves inserting 4 to 6 soft polyester pillars into the palate to help stiffen the tissue, thereby restricting palate movement and opening up the entrance to the throat. This procedure can be completed within 30 minutes in a single visit and can be reversed. It is also less painful than other surgical methods and requires shorter recovery time.
Surgical Procedures: Surgery is an option for treating severe cases of snoring. Below are a few variations of procedures designed to remove or reduce the size of tonsils and other tissue near the back of the throat.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This procedure involves removing excess tissue toward the back of the throat (including the tonsils, uvula and parts of the soft palate) and must be done in a surgical facility under anesthesia. Recovery is often painful and can take several weeks. Success rates average less than 60 percent.
- Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): This procedure is a variation on the UPPP that employs a laser to excise tissue at the back of the throat (tonsils, uvula and parts of the soft palate). LAUP can be performed in a doctor's office and involves removal of less tissue than UPPP.
- Somnoplasty: Somnoplasty uses electrical energy to reduce the size of the soft palate and uvula by burning away excess tissue. Somnoplasty is an outpatient procedure that can be completed in about 30 minutes. The procedure requires a local anesthetic.
Changes in Habit or Lifestyle: Other solutions for snoring involve lifestyle changes, including losing weight through exercise and an improved diet, sleeping on one's side rather than back, and using medication to enhance breathing through the nose.