Dr. Jonathan Greenburg is one of the leading experts in the field of snoring and Sleep Apnea. He is presenting a series of articles to help you better understand the causes, effects, and proper successful treatment of snoring and Sleep Apnea.
Causes of Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Well if you think about it, what happens if you have a big tongue in a small mouth? The majority of patients I have treated all have a large tongue in a small mouth. Here’s a simple visual: take your foot, whatever size, and try to put it in a shoe that is three sizes too small for you. What happens? It’s only going to go in so far. Where’s the rest of the foot going to go? Well, simply, the rest of the foot is going to hang out of the back of the shoe.
The same thing happens if you have a big tongue in a small mouth. Your teeth are in the front and on the sides. The only place there is room for your tongue to go is to the back of the throat. Now, something almost everyone can relate to is that people find they snore the worst when they sleep on their back. I always hear the comment, “my wife [or husband] elbows me to roll over.” When a snoring person rolls over and gets off their back, the snoring is always less. Why is this?
Let’s look at this at its most basic and logical level. There is no super-secret or any sort of rocket science involved here. Many articles you may have read regarding Sleep Apnea, or when you speak with many doctors about Sleep Apnea, they say that Sleep Apnea is about the airway collapsing. It is not necessarily the airway collapsing as much as it is about the airway becoming blocked by the tongue.
So is it about the airway collapsing or is it about the tongue falling back and blocking the airway? If it was only about the airway collapsing, you could be on your left side or your right side or your front or your back when you are sleeping, and it wouldn’t make a difference.
But we all know when a snoring person rolls over (after being elbowed by their spouse), the snoring is less or eliminated. For the thousands of sleep studies that I have reviewed, almost every sleep study shows that the Sleep Apnea is worse when the patient is sleeping on their back. The only reason snoring and sleep apnea is worse when someone is on their back is because gravity is pushing the tongue back and closing the airway.
Snoring - - Why does that awful noise occur? Famed Engineer – Daniel Bernoulli came up with Bernoulli’s principle which in simplistic terms says, the smaller the airway, the faster the velocity or air speed that is propelled through it. Accelerated and high-speed air creates turbulence and turbulent air like an airplane engine, creates noise. When this occurs during breathing, we call it snoring.
Now, a partial blockage of the airway is what we call snoring. Sleep Apnea is the complete blockage of the airway. The airway can be blocked for as much as 70, 80 or 90 seconds or more. But when it stays blocked even once for at least 10 seconds, it is called a Sleep Apneic event.
If your spouse notices that you stop breathing when you sleep, you have Sleep Apnea. This is a very serious life threatening issue and you should see your Doctor right away. It is not going to go away and the longer you procrastinate, the more damage you are doing. It increases your risk of stroke 4 times normal, heart attacks and heart disease 3 times normal, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, weight gain and more.
Have you ever wondered why snoring and sleep apnea get worse with age? The tongue is all muscle. As we get older, we lose muscle tone. Everything sags. So as we get older, the tongue falls back further and further. The further it falls back, the louder, the snoring and the worse, the sleep apnea.
Join me next week for another article It’s All About The Tongue for an in depth look at the causes of the tongue blocking the airway.
Written by Dr. Jonathan Greenburg.
Dr. J. G is the head of the “U Snore No More” centers in Southern California. Dr. G is the inventor of one of the only appliances that is a single lower mouth piece similar to a night-guard or orthodontic retainer that specifically addresses holding the tongue back from blocking the throat with no surgery, no noise, and very effectively. Dr. G conducts post sleep studies with all of his patients. The results are extremely high and comparable to those of the success of a CPAP – only without the cumbersome mask, hoses, and noise. He is also a provider of the OPAP, the most comfortable way to use a CPAP machine. Sleep well!