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Sleep Disordered Breathing FAQ's


1. What is snoring and what causes it?

A: Snoring is the fluttering sound created by the vibration of tissues in the back of the throat and nose. These vibrating tissues may include the soft palate, throat, uvula, tonsils, and adenoids.

The following factors contribute to both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):

• Your anatomy - obstruction of the upper airway, with the soft palate being the most common factor
• Your lifestyle - weight gain, alcohol consumption, and smoking
• Your body's aging - tissue elasticity decreases with age, allowing more chance for vibration
• Poor mental and emotional health

2. Are there any actual negative consequences to snoring?

A: There are several negative consequences to snoring, including -

• Daytime sleepiness
• Poor mental and emotional health
• Decreased productivity
• Slower reaction time
• Vehicle accidents
• Unhappy bed partner

3. What is sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and what causes it?

A: Apnea is a Greek word meaning "without breath." OSA is caused by the collapse or obstruction of the upper airway, occurring at one or a combination of levels -

• Nasal airway
• Soft palate/tonsils
• Tongue base
• Pharyngeal walls

4. Are there any actual negative consequences to sleep apnea?

A: Consequences include -

• Hypertension
• Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
• Stroke
• Type II Diabetes
• Depression
• Cognitive dysfunction
• Impotence, sexual dysfunction, reduced libido
• Morning headaches

5. How common is sleep disordered breathing? (Including both snoring & sleep apnea)

A: More than 75 million Americans suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and OSA. It affects 24% of adult males and 9% of adult females. More than 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) annually. 

6. What part of the ear, nose, or throat anatomy contributes most to snoring?

A: The soft palate (mouth) is the primary contributor in 80% of snoring and a major anatomical contributor in OSA.

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Michael Macdonald, M.D.
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San Francisco, CA 94102