Snoring: The Symptom of a Sinister Slumber

Sometimes you can do everything right and things still don’t go your way. Just ask Sergeant Robertson.

Sergeant Donald Robertson was a cavalry scout in the US Army. He was fit, ate as well as a soldier could, and took good care of himself. After 10 years of hard training, he was strong and had quite a bit of muscle. But despite all his efforts, his health was on a rapid decline, and he was inexplicably gaining weight.

He had uncontrollable high blood pressure and treatment wasn’t working; his doctor was at a loss. His constant heartburn became so frequent that it often caused vomiting. Don also had immense difficulty sleeping, even when using a prescribed sleeping aid. And when he did sleep, his snoring could be measured on the Richter Scale.

When on duty, his platoon dreaded being anywhere near him; no one was sleeping if Robertson was nearby, and at home, he slept on the couch as not to disturb his wife and their newborn.

Someone who spent their entire adult life dedicated to perfect health was having his life ruined by seemingly untreatable health problems.

That all changed after a trip to the dentist.

The Silent Killer

Dental Appliances

Service men and women are required to have regular checkups and when given the choice, Robertson opted to see his own dentist. His dentist noticed something his doctors had missed: he has a small airway and a large neck, which is rather easy to note when you get the chance to stare into someone’s mouth for a while.

When making an inquiry about snoring, he brought up the sleeping issues he was having, which, when combined with data from his chart, put up giant red flags. Don needed a sleep study, ASAP.

Robertson checked into a lab that specializes in sleep study and after hooking him all up, he went to sleep. While it was supposed to consist of a two-night stay in the lab, they had all the data they needed after 88 minutes and stopped the study. It was clear, Robertson had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it might have killed him.

In those 88 minutes, he had stopped breathing 44 times. His oxygen levels dropped to dangerously low levels and despite him appearing to be happily snoring (which could be heard down the hall) he never actually got past stage one of REM sleep.

Don has a naturally smaller-than-average airway and a wrestler’s neck that had been enlarged from years of training. As he slept, his airway collapsed, which caused the snoring, and his breathing completely stopped every couple of minutes. His attempts at sleep became a recurring nightmare, in which, he never reached deep enough sleep to have an actual dream.

After briefly waking to be fitted with an oral device, Don finished the night with the best sleep he had had in a long time. The techs had outfitted him with a mouthguard-like appliance designed to keep his airway open. After application, he immediately went into normal phases of sleep, with optimal oxygen levels (and no snoring).


Sleep apnea is a tricky beast. It’s called the “silent killer” because it can cause dangerous complications that may be treated (such as hypertension) while the underlying cause of obstructive sleep apnea remains undetected. In fact, about 80-90% of those with sleep apnea aren’t even aware they have it, and most people don’t know much about it.

Your case may not be as dangerous as Robertson’s was, but that is no reason to shave years off of your life while leaving it untreated. We see this often; you can’t really gauge yourself when sleeping, so the best tip off you may get is the complaint of your snoring from those around you.

You also want to take the STOP! BANG test:

S nore? Not all who snore have sleep apnea, but snoring loudly is a major symptom to look for.

T ired? Excessive drowsiness may indicate you’re not getting a deep sleep.  

O bserved? Has anyone observed you stop breathing or choking/gasping during sleep?

P ressure? Are you being treated for high blood pressure?

B ody? Is your body mass index more than 35?

A ge? While any age group can have OSA, it’s more common in those over the age of 50.

N eck? Do you have a large neck? For men, that’s 17 inches. For women, 16 inches.

G ender? Men are much more likely to have OSA.

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these and you snore, you are at a high risk for OSA.

We can help you take back your sleep, your life, and eliminate that sonorous snoring while we are at it.  Call for an appointment at our dental practice in South East Boise, today. Trust us, you and your family with be glad you did!

~Dr. Wagner