When snoring becomes dangerous…


Almost half of adults sometimes snore. This could be a disturbing background noise for your bedfellow, repeating every night, but also indicate a dangerous disease: sleep apnoea or sleep choking disease.

Snoring is more common in men and obese people. However, a slim man or woman could also snore if the lower jaw and neck structure favours this. Upon falling asleep, all muscles in the body relax, including palate, tongue, and throat muscles – airflow moves through narrowed airways, making the relaxed tissue vibrate. Disturbed nasal breathing amplifies snoring. The narrower the airways, the louder the snoring sound. Snoring gets worse when using alcohol and sleeping pills because they cause the muscles to relax too much.

Over time, snoring could develop into a dangerous disease: sleep apnoea. In case of sleep apnoea, snoring is alternated with breaks from breathing because relaxed airways collapse either partially or completely. Snort gasping for air often awakes both the snorer as well as his or her bedfellow. During the night, such breaks from breathing occur repeatedly and due to alternating oxygen deficiency the sleep is not as deep and nourishing as before.

Snoring and sleep apnoea often start in childhood. Sleep apnoea threatens children with enlarged adenoid, big tonsils, a small lower jaw that keeps backwards, and malocclusion. Overweight children have this disease more often. Sleep apnoea causes children’s behavioural disorders and learning difficulties that recede with a timely diagnosis and treatment.

Sleep apnoea is characterised by loud and repeated snoring, breaks from breathing and the feeling of suffocation when sleeping, restless sleep, tingling and scratching feeling in the throat, excess daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and difficulties concentrating. Untreated sleep apnoea causes blood pressure to increase, diabetes and other metabolic diseases could develop. People suffering from sleep apnoea find it more difficult to lose excessive bodyweight and maintain a healthy weight. Allergic diseases worsen sleep apnoea. People suffering from sleep apnoea are tired during the daytime due to disturbed sleep and endanger both themselves and others in traffic! Fellow sleepers who have lost sleeping time due to the snoring sound should not be forgotten either.

In Estonia, many of the snorers are in the dark: do they have sleep apnoea or not? The following test shows the probability for sleep apnoea. “ Yes” three or more times indicates a high risk for sleep apnoea and you should contact the sleep centre for qualifying tests. The test does not always detect mild or atypical sleep apnoea.

Parimaks norskamise ja  uneapnoe eristamise meetodiks on haiglas läbiviidav uneuuring, mille käigus registreeritakse kaheksa tunni jooksul uneaegne ajutegevus, hingamisrütm ja selle häired, lihasaktiivsus ja liigutushäired, südametöö jm. Uuringu alusel määratakse sobilik ravi.

The best method for differentiating between snoring and sleep apnoea is a sleep test conducted in the hospital, during which the brain activity, breathing rhythm and its abnormalities, muscle activity and movement disorders, heart activity, etc. are registered for eight hours. Suitable treatment is prescribed based on the test.

Testing and treating snoring and sleep apnoea is done by a doctor trained in sleep medicine. Both snoring and sleep apnoea are alleviated by losing excess bodyweight, limiting the consumption of alcohol and opiates. The main treatment method for sleep apnoea is CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure, in the case of which the blowing airflow keeps the airways open during sleep. Treating sleep apnoea along with normalising bodyweight decreases the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Excess daytime fatigue recedes significantly and the ability to concentrate and work increases. You need a referral from your general practitioner to come to the sleep centre.

Heisl Vaher


The article has been published in the May issue of Medical News.


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