Patient ResourcesArrowFrequently Asked Questions


Is snoring normal?

Most people snore to some degree. Generally speaking it is quite normal. Snoring becomes abnormal if it gets to the point where it is extremely loud and bothersome to others or is accompanied with interrupted breathing.

Do men snore more than women?

Snoring is much more prominent in men than in women.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is most often caused by loose, weak, or excessive tissue at the back of the throat which collapses into the airway during sleep. This tissue flutters or vibrates as air is breathed in, causing the snoring sound.

Why does snoring occur during sleep?

During sleep the muscle tissue that causes snoring tends to relax. The deeper we fall asleep the more relaxed this tissue becomes. This relaxed tissue will begin to cover the airway and thus the snoring sound begins. By the time we start to snore, we are in a deep enough sleep not to hear the noise, but even if we cannot hear it ourselves it can still be disruptive to our sleep as well as those around us.

Why do some people snore more loudly than others?

Some people are simply born with the characteristics that lend themselves to be snorers. These characteristics are body structure and the anatomy of the mouth and surrounding structures. Outside factors such as medications and alcohol can also make snoring worse.

What about the people who really rattle the house?

Snoring can be a "fire alarm" for more serious problems than just keeping others awake. Snoring can signal the existence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Is it up to everyone else to tolerate the loud snoring?

People who snore often don’t realize that they snore. Even when an irate partner complains about it, the snorer may still deny it. This is actually typical of problem snorers. It should be understood that because it is done uncontrollably, snorers are not at fault for their snoring. However, it should also be understood by snorers that they may indeed be creating problems for others, whether they care to admit it or not.

My spouse literally STOPS BREATHING. It SCARES me to death! Is this normal?

NO, THIS IS NOT NORMAL. It is a symptom of a far more serious problem called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disruption that can have serious health consequences. It causes your breathing to periodically stop while you’re sleeping. This is related to the relaxation of the muscles in your throat. When you stop breathing, your body usually wakes up, causing you to lose out on quality sleep. Over time, sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, metabolic issues, increased risk of car accidents, depression, and other health problems, so it’s important to treat it. If nonsurgical treatments don’t help, you may need surgery.

How common is sleep apnea?

• 1 of every 5 adults has at least a mild form of sleep apnea (20%)
• 1 of every 15 adults has at least moderate sleep apnea (6.6%)
• 2 to 3% of children are likely to have sleep apnea
• Over 1 in 4 (26%) Canadian adults have a high risk of having or developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Who is at risk of developing sleep apnea?

Many people believe that sleep apnea is something exclusive to those with weight problems such as obesity. As weight is gained, fat is deposited around the throat and this causes the airway to become blocked. This is why many people believe that sleep apnea is exclusive to obese people. However, the reality is that around a third of the world's population that has sleep apnea or snoring actually have a normal weight, and instead the problem is somewhere in the mouth or nose. This means that they can be a healthy body weight yet still suffer from sleep apnea.

What surgery options are available?

There is nasal surgery, which involves treating nasal obstructions. There’s UPPP, also known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, which involves removing excess tissue from the soft palate and pharynx. There are several different methods for all of these, but these are some of the most common that your ENT will suggest.

Can I have sleep apnea surgery even with a high body weight (or high BMI)?

Procedures are available for people of all sizes and weights, but the effectiveness of surgery often can be variable depending on body weight.

What’s the difference between mild, moderate and severe sleep apnea?

Sleep specialists decide if your sleep apnea is mild, moderate, or severe by counting how many times your breathing stops each hour. The times when your breathing stops are called “apneas” or "events". They can count these events using polysomnography or portable home monitoring.

• 5 to 15 events per hour : Mild sleep apnea
• 15 to 30 events per hour : Moderate sleep apnea
• over 30 events per hour : Severe sleep apnea

However the number of apneas is only one measure of severity. There are other things doctors consider when they are deciding how severe your sleep apnea is. Some other considerations are:

• How sleepy you feel during the day
• How low your oxygen level dips
• How long your oxygen level stays below 90%
• Other medical conditions you may have
• How bad the snoring is
• Your reaction time

What is central sleep apnea?

In central sleep apnea, your brain forgets to tell your muscles that you need to breathe. Your throat and airway are normal – it’s your brain that has the trouble. Central sleep apnea is much rarer than obstructive sleep apnea.

It is possible to have both obstructive and central sleep apnea. This is called mixed sleep apnea.

What is sleep-hypoventilation syndrome (also called upper airway resistance syndrome)?

When a person doesn’t breathe enough during the day and night to take in the oxygen he or she needs, this is called is called sleep-hypoventilation syndrome. Hypoventiation means to breathe less than is necessary to keep the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood normal. Sleep hypoventilation is linked to obesity.

Is CPAP a good therapy for sleep apnea?

CPAP works well when used, but about 50% of people who are prescribed CPAP don’t like it and stop using it within a few months. For suitable patients with sleep apnea who have favorable anatomy, their disease can be potentially be managed more effectively with surgery than CPAP, without confounding issues of treatment cost or adherence, and with only minor surgical risk.

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