THE BLOG
11/20/2014 08:29 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2015

EPAP and the Future of Snoring

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Do you have a snorer in your life? Most of us do. Maybe you have a parent or a sibling who is known in the family for their snoring. Perhaps your partner snores. Maybe the snorer in your life is you. Snoring is one of the most common sleep problems, and can also be one of the most disruptive.

Snoring is one form of sleep-disordered breathing, and it's a sleep problem that should not be ignored. Left unattended, snoring can wreak havoc with both health and quality of life, increasing risks for serious health conditions and contributing to difficulties with daily functioning.

We treat snoring in a number of different ways. People who sleep on their backs can sometimes alleviate mild or occasional snoring by switching to a side-sleeping position. Making changes to lifestyle and behavior -- losing weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption -- may also help reduce snoring.

Often, however, lifestyle and behavioral adjustments don't do enough to manage snoring successfully. EPAP (expiratory positive airway pressure) is a new and highly effective form of treatment for snoring. Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is a well-established therapy for sleep-disordered breathing, having been used successfully for decades in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. EPAP is a newer form of PAP therapy, one that uses the sleeper's own exhaling breath to alleviate snoring. Theravent is the first EPAP therapy to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat snoring. It's an exciting and important breakthrough in treatment for sleep-disordered breathing.

What makes us snore in the first place? The noise of snoring happens when the airflow of breathing causes vibration of the tissues at the back of the throat. When we sleep, the muscles in the back of the mouth and throat -- the upper airway -- relax. For many people, this relaxation of the muscles at the back of the throat causes the airway to narrow or become temporarily blocked. A narrow upper airway intensifies the vibrations that cause snoring.

EPAP works to keep the upper airway open and unobstructed, using positive air pressure generated by the sleeper's exhaling breath. Theravent delivers EPAP therapy through a small adhesive device that's placed onto the nostrils at bedtime. The Theravent device contains micro valves that use each exhale of breath to create positive airway pressure. This positive pressure keeps the airway of the throat from narrowing, and can reduce or even eliminate snoring.

There's a robust body of scientific research demonstrating that EPAP is an effective method for treating sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

Anyone -- male or female, young or old -- can have a problem with snoring. Roughly 90 million U.S. adults experience snoring, many of them habitually. Snoring tends to occur more frequently with age. Being overweight increases the risk of habitual snoring, as do smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. But snoring can be present even without these risk factors. Anatomy can play a role in snoring. The structure of an individual's head, neck, and throat may make one more likely to snore, regardless of other factors.

Snoring brings disruption to sleep, and complications to health and daily living. Snoring can result in fragmented and unrefreshing sleep. People who snore often cope with high levels of daytime tiredness and fatigue. They may have trouble with concentration and memory. The poor sleep caused by snoring also can cause irritability and mood swings.

Snoring often is a source of difficulty in relationships. When you're tired and irritable as a result of poor quality sleep, you don't bring your best self to your relationships. Intimate relationships face a particular toll, as partners who sleep together are often both suffering from compromised and disrupted sleep as a consequence of one person's snoring. The stress and disruption of snoring often leads partners to sleep in separate rooms, depriving them of the closeness and intimacy of sharing a bed.

Habitual snoring also increases the risk of a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Snoring has also been associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. And snoring is sometimes itself a symptom of an even more serious form of sleep-disordered breathing: obstructive sleep apnea.

For all of these reasons, it's important to treat snoring promptly, before complications occur. EPAP offers a new avenue of hope for the reduction and even elimination of snoring. With EPAP now available as a therapy, the future of snoring is looking -- and sounding -- a lot quieter, a great deal more healthful, and full of sound, restful sleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
www.thesleepdoctor.com