Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Snoring

Ear, Nose And Throat Disorders

Almost 50% of all people snore at least occasionally, and 25% of all people are considered habitual snorers. While snoring can certainly be disruptive to others, it may also be a sign of a bigger problem called obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder can affect both adults and children. Not every patient who snores has obstructive sleep apnea, but almost all patients with this condition will snore. CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat offers the expertise to treat certain causes of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea using surgery or, if appropriate, the Inspire device.

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Causes Of Snoring

Deformities of the nose (deviated septum) – This physical abnormality can cause an obstruction that leads to or worsens snoring.
Bulky tissue in the throat – Large tonsils and adenoids can cause snoring and restless nights. The same can be true for overweight people who have excess soft tissue that can narrow the airway. Cysts or tumors are also possible causes of snoring, but this is a rare situation.

Long soft palate and/or uvula – The excessive length of the soft palate and/or uvula creates noise during relaxed breathing.

Stuffy nose – A stuffy or blocked nose creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat that pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat, which leads to snoring. In cases like this, snoring may only occur during allergy season or with a cold or sinus infection.

Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat – muscles that are too relaxed allow the tongue to fall backward into the airway and/or allow the throat muscles to draw from the sides into the airway. Lack of muscle control can be increased by the use of drugs that cause drowsiness, including alcohol.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious medical condition in which a person actually stops breathing multiple times while sleeping. These episodes can last over 10 seconds each and can occur 10 to 130 times per hour. OSA causes the heart to work harder and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Most noticeably, it disrupts the sleep cycle and leads to a feeling of sleepiness throughout the day. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea also increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes in adults.

Signs Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although in adults it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight. For most adult patients and some children, a sleep study may be needed to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. Adults or children with any of the following symptoms should definitely be evaluated for sleep apnea:

  • Constant snoring in any sleeping position
  • Ongoing daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Episodes of breathing pauses during sleep

Treatment For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

For adults, the standard treatment recommended for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This treatment option consists of wearing a device with a mask while you sleep that fits over the nose or around the nose and mouth. The CPAP device delivers a steady stream of air to the throat that keeps the throat muscles from collapsing and obstructing the airway during sleep.

For some adult patients, nasal obstruction caused by a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates should be surgically corrected before CPAP treatment can be maximally effective. 


For some patients, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat sleep apnea. This may include the removal of the tonsils and adenoids, or portions of the soft palate and uvula. An ablation procedure to reduce the amount of tissue on the base of the tongue may also be recommended.


The Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) system is an implantable nerve stimulator used to treat moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea in patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. The Inspire stimulates the hypoglossal nerve, which is responsible for movement of the tongue.


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