Most habitual snorers find that making a few small but powerful changes to their daily habits can help them stop, but some people require surgery to stop snoring due to an anatomical abnormality which can become a long-term medical problem with potentially serious health implications.
What is Snoring?
Snoring happens when the tissues of the upper airways become too relaxed. This causes them to vibrate and possibly become partially or completely blocked during sleep. This compromises breathing, and the stereotypical snoring sound is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of snoring. Snoring regularly disrupts sleep and leads to daytime concentration, performance, and mood issues, and increases various health risks.
Snoring is more likely if:
- You are a middle-aged male
- You are overweight or obese
- You consume alcohol
- You smoke cigarettes
- You are a postmenopausal female
- You have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
- Your parent/s snore
- You have nasal/sinus/oral/throat problems
- Your airways are narrow
Snoring is significantly worse if there is a physical problem, from a deviated nasal septum to oversized tonsils to an excessively fat neck. When snoring is severe and there’s a proven anatomical basis for this, surgery to stop snoring may be your best option.
How Does Surgery to Stop Snoring Work?
Conservative approaches to treat snoring should always be tried first. If measures like losing weight, side sleeping, and using medical devices don’t suitably alleviate the issue, surgery may be recommended by a specialist head-and-neck or ear/nose/throat surgeon to improve the quality of your sleep for better general health outcomes.
It’s very important to understand that while the right surgical approach can be very effective, the relief offered may, for some people, only be temporary.
Surgery to stop snoring may take several forms, and only your doctor can recommend the appropriate type for you based on your individual reason for snoring.
Understanding Some Important Terms
- Uvula – a small, teardrop-shaped floppy piece of tissue that hangs at the back of the throat. When you say “aaahhh”, you can see it in the mirror. The uvula is made up of muscle, connective tissue, and salivary glands and it is present to help stop food and drink from going up the back of your nose. It vibrates when you snore and it can potentially block the airway.
- Epiglottis – this small flap of cartilage moves into place over the lower airways when you swallow to prevent food and drinks from “going down the wrong way”.
- Tonsils – two masses of soft glandular tissue that sit at either side of the upper throat at the very back of the mouth. They are part of the immune system and help prevent throat and airway infections. Enlarged tonsils are common in children and usually of no concern at that stage unless frequently infected.
- Adenoids – made of similar tissue to the tonsils, they hang from the upper, back part of the nasal cavity. They usually stop growing between the ages of three and seven years and in many people they virtually disappear by adolescence.
- Hyoid – the small U-shaped bone that sits in the front of the neck just under the chin. It supports the tongue and helps to protect the oesophagus.
- Maxilla – this is the bone of the upper jaw in the front of the face. It is made up of two separate bones that fuse below the nose.
- Mandible –the largest individual bone in the skull, this is the lower jawbone. It attaches to the temporal bone at joints just in front of and below the ears
Types of Surgery to Stop Snoring
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a minor surgical technique that is often performed using just a local anaesthetic. It removes the uvula as well as parts of the soft palate and upper throat walls to open the airway for easier breathing. Some people may also have their adenoids removed at the same time.
- Palatal Implant – A minor procedure where small plastic rods are implanted into the soft palate at the back of the mouth. These work to stiffen the palate and prevent it from collapsing or vibrating during sleep.
- Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation –a device is implanted to stimulate the nerve that controls the tongue. This activates during sleep if snoring occurs and helps open the airways.
- Septoplasty/Turbinate Reduction – this is actually two procedures usually performed in combination. Septoplasty corrects issues such as a deviated septum, straightening the nasal bones and cavity. Turbinate reduction removes some tissues of the turbinates; these are passages in the nose that moisten and warm air as it is inhaled, preventing dryness and irritation. They can become inflamed and swollen, leading to narrower airways.
- Midline Glossectomy/Lingualplasty – removal of parts of the back of the tongue, opening the airway by reducing its size. The epiglottis and tonsils may also be trimmed.
- Hyoid Suspension – this operation moves the base of the tongue and epiglottis forward by moving the hyoid forward in the neck and attaching it to the thyroid cartilage for greater stability. This helps open the deeper airway of the throat.
- Maxillomandibular Advancement – this is a major surgical procedure that alters the position of both maxilla and mandible, moving them forward to open the airways. It is used for people who have a facial deformity impacting their ability to breathe normally.
- Genioglossus Advancement – the tongue is moved forward at its attachment to the hyoid bone and reattached to the mandible.
Understanding Surgical Risks
All surgery carries risks. It’s important to consider the risks versus benefits of surgery and discuss these in-depth with your doctor.
General risks of having any of these types of surgery to stop snoring include:
- Risks associated with general anaesthesia
- Pain and soreness
- Ongoing sore throat
- Long-term pain/discomfort
- Changes to the voice – these may be permanent
- Issues with swallowing
- Issues with breathing
- The feeling of a “lump” in the throat
- Development of scar tissue
- Ongoing dryness in the nose, mouth, or throat
- Snoring may continue despite surgery
Surgery is expensive. Costs you need to consider include hospital admission feed, surgeon’s fees, theatre fees, as well as costs incurred due to time off work. You must also factor in the non-financial implications of recovery and its impact on your day-to-day life.
Conservative Approaches to Snoring
Before you opt for a surgical solution to stop snoring:
- Regulate your sleep patterns. Go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning. Avoid daytime naps. Minimise screen time, large meals, alcohol and caffeine, and don’t exercise before bedtime.
- Raise your head during sleep. Try to sleep on your side.
- Maintain a healthy weight and try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Manage stress.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Use ApneaRx while you sleep.
Why Not Try ApneaRx?
Looking for a surgery-free solution to snoring? ApneaRx alleviates (and might even eliminate) snoring in adults of all ages for better sleep and a healthier body and mind.
Call 0800 111 325 in NZ.