“When you laugh, the world laughs with you; when you snore, you sleep alone.”
Most of us spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is important to everyone, and a disrupted sleep due to snoring can be frustrating and annoying. Many snorers have tried to alleviate their problem with nasal sprays and strips, but they still find themselves regularly experiencing a restless night’s sleep, not to mention that of their bed partners. Their unsuccessful attempts often lead them to seek out a solution to their problem with cumbersome sleep appliances and/or extensive surgical treatments.
Although effective in targeting the primary cause of snoring, throat surgeries or laser treatments of the palate are often associated with risks, complications, as well as pain. In addition to a very painful process, surgery downtime involves up to two weeks of recovery. Thankfully, Somnus Medical Technologies, Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA) developed somnoplasty, a low-power, low-temperature radiofrequency energy treatment used to volumetrically reduce the excess tissues of the uvula, soft palate, and nasal cavity to correct the cause of snoring and sleep apnea.
Benefits of Somnoplasty
- Minimal discomfort
- Quick recovery
- Minimally invasive
- Improves loud snoring
- Improves sleep apnea
- Performed in-office under local anesthesia
Patients who are suffering from snoring and/or have a significant breathing problem such as obstructive sleep apnea (a serious disorder in which a snorer stops breathing several times an hour while sleeping) may be good candidates for somnoplasty. A sleep test is often required to determine if a patient has sleep apnea. Typically, the patient will stay overnight and have their snoring and breathing evaluated.
Dr. Persky will perform a full examination to determine if you are a simple snorer or if you have more significant problems such as sleep apnea. He will go over the procedure in detail and help you decide whether it is the right option for you. Patients who require further tests to determine if they suffer from sleep apnea can learn about their diagnostic alternatives available, and Dr. Persky will recommend the best test for them.
Why Snoring Occurs
Snoring occurs when the excessive mucosa and muscle tissues of the oral airway relax during sleep, become floppy, and vibrate creating the disruptive noise of snoring. Most people snore because they have an enlarged soft palate and uvula at the back of the mouth, including the tongue, tonsils, and adenoids. Snoring can also be caused by congested nasal passages that cause loud mouth breathing. If patients who otherwise do not snore have their nasal passages blocked (by a cold, allergies, or even placing cotton in the nose), 100 percent will snore. In those patients, reduction of the inferior nasal turbinates (structures on the side walls of the nose) will not only correct nasal breathing but snoring as well! The level of snoring can become worse due to excess weight, alcohol intake, allergies, and smoking.
After the area to be treated is anesthetized with local anesthetic, radiofrequency energy is delivered beneath the surface into the muscle of the soft palate. The treated tissue is heated just enough to create an area of coagulation. Over the next four to six weeks, the treated tissue will naturally contract and stiffen. The excess tissue that caused snoring reduces in volume and stiffens, creating a smoother passageway with better airflow that does not collapse when the muscle relaxes during sleep. Patients feel minimal discomfort during this safe and effective 30-minute treatment. When the inferior nasal turbinates are treated, the turbinates are anesthetized with topical anesthetic followed by local anesthesia. Usually, each inferior turbinate is treated in three spots, each spot taking about 90 seconds. There is very little discomfort during the treatment.
Recovery is a quick process. Patients will experience some swelling and discomfort for a few days. We advise patients to eat soft foods for the first few days. It usually takes about seven days for the palate feel like it is back to normal. During this time the residual swelling will gradually subside. As the tissue decreases in size, snoring will eventually dissipate. Somnoplasty of the palate is usually repeated about two to three months after the first procedure for best results.
Recovery from inferior turbinate somnoplasty involves experiencing stuffiness of the nasal passages that feels like a cold for about five to seven days. Dr. Persky cleans the nasal passages at day two and day five after the treatment. Baseline nasal breathing is back after one week, and nasal breathing continues to improve over the next few months. Approximately 80 percent of patients in whom allergy medications have not helped their nasal breathing can breathe well through their nose after this treatment.
Once the uvula and/or soft palate is corrected, patients can breathe better and eliminate their snoring problem. Patients with sleep apnea can get a better night’s sleep and alleviate associated problems. Results last for a long time. Some patients may need repeat somnoplasty procedures to maintain results or to target severe causes of snoring or sleep apnea.
If you are a snorer or have sleep apnea, you can benefit from somnoplasty. Schedule your consultation with Dr. Persky today. Contact our Encino office by calling (818) 501-3223 or by filling out our online contact form.