What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Snoring?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea—a sleep-related breathing disorder. It is a condition that occurs when your throat muscles relax and block your airway, causing a complete or partial obstruction of your upper airways during sleep. This can cause you to stop breathing briefly while sleeping. In order to open up your airways again to help you breathe, your diaphragm and chest muscles are forced to work harder than usual, resulting in gasping or jerking as breathing resumes. Sleep apnea can cause snoring, disrupt oxygen flow, interrupt sleep, and put stress on your vital organs, requiring treatment to cure.

Symptoms of Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where the upper airway during sleep is blocked. Snoring is indeed one of the most common and noticeable signs of OSA that needs immediate treatment, but it’s important to note that not all snorers have sleep apnea, and not all individuals with sleep apnea snore. Additionally, snoring itself may not always indicate a serious health problem.

Here are some other signs and symptoms associated with sleep apnea:

  • Mouth breathing: People with sleep apnea often breathe through their mouths while sleeping. This can lead to dry mouth and may contribute to snoring.
  • Waking up with gasps or chokes: Sleep apnea episodes can cause a person to stop breathing temporarily during sleep. This can lead to sudden awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking sensations as the body tries to restore normal breathing.
  • Night sweats: Experiencing excessive sweating during sleep, particularly if unrelated to room temperature or external factors, can be a symptom of sleep apnea.
  • Sleep disturbance: Sleep disturbances like sleepwalking, sleep talking, and night terrors can be associated with sleep apnea, especially in children.
  • Bedwetting: In some cases, sleep apnea can contribute to bedwetting in children.
  • Daytime sleepiness: Individuals with sleep apnea often experience excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to reduced alertness, difficulty staying awake, and a general feeling of fatigue.
  • Difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness: Sleep apnea can affect cognitive function, leading to difficulties in concentrating, increased impulsiveness, and hyperactivity, particularly in children.
  • Morning headaches: Frequent morning headaches can be a result of the interrupted and poor-quality sleep caused by sleep apnea.
  • Irritability and difficulty controlling emotions: Sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and difficulties in regulating emotions.

Causes and Risk Factors  of OSA and Snoring

  • The soft tissues in the back of your throat collapsing
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids—glands located at the back of your throat
  • Obesity—obstructs the airway
  • Weakness in the tongue and throat muscles
  • Small jaw or overbite
  • Nasal allergies
  • Narrow airways
  • High blood pressure 
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Old age

Complications of OSA

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to other health complications, and in some cases, life-threatening conditions due to the lower flow of oxygen to your vital organs. Some complications of OSA include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart-related issues (e.g. abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Complications with surgery and medications
  • Liver problems
  • Problems with growth and neurocognition in children

Although sleep apnea can cause snoring, not all snorers suffer from the condition. Snoring happens during sleep when normal airflow is obstructed or when the tissues in your throat vibrate as you breathe. While it is a common occurrence, if you do snore, it could also indicate sleep apnea, and require treatment.

There are snoring treatments that you can receive at ear, nose, and throat clinics to resolve chronic snoring problems. However, some people may find fast relief through minor adjustments to their lifestyle. For example, changing your sleep position, losing weight, avoiding alcohol, keeping your bed clean, staying hydrated, and more.

Obstructive sleep apnea treatments are typically recommended to patients depending on the root cause(s) of their condition. Sleep apnea and snoring can stem from alcohol or sleeping pill consumption, narrowed airways, old age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, anatomic abnormality, and more.

Some sleep apnea and/or snoring treatments the doctor may recommend include oral devices that help keep your airways open, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, surgery, or simply medications.

Sleep apnea and Snoring Treatment in Singapore

Here are different treatments for sleep apnea and snoring in Singapore, depending on the severity of the condition and individual needs:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): Wearing a mask during sleep, CPAP delivers a constant flow of air to keep the airway open.
  • Oral Appliances: Custom-made devices that reposition the jaw and tongue to prevent airway blockage.
  • Nasal decongestants: These are medications that help relieve snoring and is used as a treatment for relieving nasal congestion or obstruction.
  • Steam Inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water can help moisten and open up the nasal passages, providing temporary relief from congestion.
  • Surgery: Reserved for severe cases or when other snoring and sleep apnea treatments are ineffective, surgery aims to remove obstructions or correct issues in the airway.

Diagnosis for Sleep Apnea and Snoring Treatment in Singapore

Snoring treatment is crucial if you exhibit symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or experience excessively loud snoring during sleep.

Seeking treatment from an ENT specialist in Singapore is essential to address these concerns effectively. Symptoms indicating the need for treatment include snoring so loudly that it disrupts others, breathing pauses during sleep, and experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness that significantly impacts your day-to-day life. Neglecting to address these issues can lead to serious health consequences associated with sleep apnea, such as increased risk of cardiovascular problems, daytime fatigue, and impaired cognitive function. By seeking appropriate treatment, you can significantly improve your sleep quality, overall health, and quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea and Snoring

How is sleep apnea treated in Singapore?

There are many different types of sleep apnea treatments in Singapore, which includes Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral appliance or dental splint, nasal surgery, palatal surgery, and more.

How common is sleep apnea in Singapore?

A study conducted estimates that approximately 30.5% of Singapore’s population has moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

What is the best treatment for snoring?

There is no best treatment for snoring as treatments are recommended based on the root cause of your snoring. To find out more about your condition and suitable treatments, consult an ENT specialist.

How can I stop snoring

Some changes you can make to attempt to prevent or quiet snoring include sleeping on your side, raising the head of your bed, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol or sedative consumption.

Can snoring be cured permanently?

Snoring can be caused by many different issues. By addressing these problems, some patients may find relief and stop snoring. However, some patients may have to continue therapy or medications in order to prevent snoring. Whether or not snoring can be cured permanently will depend on the root cause of your condition.