Snoring can be more than a noisy annoyance
March 19, 1997
Web posted at: 7:50 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Linda Ciampa
Editor's note: This story is part three of a week-long series on sleep deprivation's impact on society.
(CNN) -- Snoring is a problem as old as sleep itself, and it
has been immortalized as the butt of countless family jokes.
But for some snorers, it is no laughing matter.
As many as 40 percent of adults, most of them men, snore.
Sleep apnea, a related disorder in which people literally
stop breathing in their sleep, affects about 28 million
Snoring happens when a person's throat muscles relax during
sleep, and he or she tries to breathe through a too-small
opening in the back of the throat. This causes the soft
palate to vibrate and make that familiar noise.
"Snoring has a huge spectrum, and I think that's the key
variable you need to keep in mind," said Dr. David White of
Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
"Some people, it's just making noise -- it may upset their
spouse or the guy next door, but it has very little clinical
impact. In other people, it indicates that they're
dramatically working to breathe. It indicates they have
Sleep apnea causes unwanted dozing
Frank Tosti of Tauton, Massachusetts, knows about the
potentially dangerous consequences of sleep apnea.
"It's scary as hell when it happens to you," Tosti said.
Tosti snored for 40 years before his condition worsened and
he developed apnea. The sleeping disorder caused him to doze
off during the day -- sometimes in the middle of a
conversation, at work and, on two occasions, in the car.
"We had three of our grandchildren in the back seat. They
were singing and the radio was blasting and he went off the
road," said his wife, Irene. "He said he was all right. I was
going to drive, but he said I'm fine, I'm fine. The next day
I called the doctor."
Bulldogs aid researchers
Research is in the works for potential clinical treatments
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are studying
whether the chemical serotonin can help English bulldogs,
whose facial structure causes them to snore and suffer apnea.
Lab tests show serotonin seems to help keep the bulldogs'
throats open during sleep.
Researchers at Stanford are testing another experimental
treatment for snoring, the so-called somnoplasty technique in
which excess tissue at the back of the throat is bombarded
with radio waves.
Until a new treatment emerges, snorers can try special
pillows, nose rings and even an alarm clock that wakes the
Experts advise trying lifestyle changes such as losing
weight, exercising, quitting smoking, sleeping on one's side
and avoiding alcohol at night.
Medical treatments include dental devices that can hold the
tongue or jaw forward, air pressure devices and surgery.
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