Sleep Problems: Page 6
If your snoring is loud and uneven, erupts in snorts, or you sound like you're catching your breath or there are gaps in your breathing, these are signs of obstructive sleep apnea, the most severe type of sleep-disordered breathing. People with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep because of a blockage in the mouth or throat, most commonly the soft tissues in the back of the throat, which collapse and close off.
What to do: This condition requires evaluation by an otolaryngologist, who can look at your nose, mouth, and throat to see what's interrupting your breathing and how to repair that process. You'll also need a sleep test in which your oxygen levels are measured. Often, the first treatment doctors will recommend is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a specially designed nasal mask that blows air directly into your airways. Studies have shown CPAP masks to be extremely effective in treating sleep apnea. However, many people don't like wearing them -- and, of course, it doesn't work if you don't wear it.
If sleeping with a mask on doesn't work for you, other options are surgery; oral appliances; and newer, minimally invasive outpatient surgical treatments. These include the Pillar procedure, which involves using permanent stitches to firm up the soft palate; coblation, which uses radiofrequency to shrink nasal tissues; and even use of a carbon dioxide laser to shrink the tonsils.