Sleep apnea could be eased with sinus surgery, study shows

Recent research published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery reveals that surgery commonly used to deal with stuffed or clogged sinuses can also help those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing for short periods of time throughout the night. This occurs when the mouth relaxes too much during sleep, which then closes off the airways and prevents breathing. This can lead to snoring or choking, and commonly disrupts the sleep cycle.

Researchers conducting the trial discovered that 15 percent of people with chronically stuffed sinuses also had obstructive sleep apnea, Philly reports. However, when people undergo sinus-clearing surgery they reported an improved sleep as well as an overall improved quality of life. This held true for everyone who underwent the surgery, regardless of whether they had a sleep disorder or not.

“Poor sleep, feeling tired, and fatigue are all frequent complaints of patients with chronic sinus disease,” author Dr. Jeremiah Alt, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, said in a statement.

To discover if the surgery was helping patients with both chronic sinus problems and sleep apnea, the team issued questionnaires to 400 patients who underwent the procedure. Overall, 60 of the 400 were shown to have sleep apnea. Each of the patients improved considerably following the surgery.

As of now, there is no clear relationship between sinus problems and obstructive sleep apnea. However, researchers do have a theory as to why the two conditions are connected. When people sleep they naturally breathe through their nose. However, if that airway is blocked, they then breathe through their mouth. This may cause the tongue to fall back and block the oral air passage.

Surgery can solve these problems by altering how air flows through the nose and airways.

While never the first option, surgery can be a very good choice if common treatments, such as steroid nasal sprays or antihistamines, fail to work. Even if patients are not at that point, the team suggests that everyone who experiences sinus or nasal breathing problems should be checked for sleep apnea.

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