Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is on the spectrum of sleep disordered breathing between simply snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It involves upper airway turbulence that occurs as a result decreasing airway diameter.

How does Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome progress?

Sleep disorders and obstructive breathing during sleep develop over time.  At the extreme end of the sleep disordered breathing spectrum is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and at the other end is mild snoring.  Mild snoring rarely has a negative effect on health; however, if it gets worse over time, it could lead to a host of medical concerns, including a diagnosis of upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)

It is important to note that UARS will eventually progress to OSA if left untreated.  OSA carries with it a dangerous list of health risks and concerns including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

 UARS starts as simple snoring, harmless to most people.  Snoring is the vibrating sounds when air passes through the loosened tissues.  It is the first sign that there is some sort of obstruction in the respiratory system.  The greater the obstruction, the greater the airway resistance and the louder the snoring.

Upper airway resistance syndrome occurs when mild snoring becomes worse and leads to symptoms such as daytime sleepiness and fatigue. 

 Left untreated, UARS can lead to many consequences, including:

  • Chronic sleep disturbances (insomnia)
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Frequent awakenings throughout the night
  • Weight gain

Causes of Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

The causes of UARS are identifiable in that they are similar to obstructive sleep apnea.  The loose or relaxed fatty tissues in the throat collapsing in combined with narrowed airways causes UARS.  Additionally, the tongue falling to the back of the throat during sleep could cause an obstruction and difficulty breathing.  Due to greater breathing effort needed to get through the obstructions, people with UARS may have heavy, labored breathing rather than the loud snoring sounds that are often associated with the condition.

The brain is conditioned to arouse itself from deep sleep to compensate for the additional effort needed to breathe.  When this happens, it is impossible for the brain to perform the necessary restorative tasks that take place during normal sleep cycles

Differences between Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome and Sleep Apnea

While there are clearly similarities and connections between UARS and OSA, there are also some identifiable differences.  The biggest difference is that pauses and decreases in breathing that are present in OSA patients are virtually absent or very low in those with UARS.  Obesity is a common concern in those with OSA, but people with UARS are generally of average weight.  UARS can affect anyone of any ethnicity or gender; however, OSA is far more common in caucasian men.

Treatment for Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

Treatment for UARS should be considered the moment one realizes snoring has progressed and daytime symptoms are present.  Methods for treating UARS are similar to OSA, but differ in that CPAP (the most common treatment for OSA) is usually a last resort in those with upper airway resistance syndrome.

First, if UARS is a concern, lifestyle and behavior changes are the first to be considered for treatment.  Practicing good sleep hygiene, eating a proper diet, and getting a good amount of exercise will go a long way to reducing the symptoms.  Further, there are dental and oral appliances that can be used to keep the airways open.  These are often recommended along with the above-mentioned lifestyle and behavioral changes.

If snoring has become a progressive issue, with daytime sleepiness and fatigue symptoms present, then it is advisable to speak to a physician as soon as possible to avoid progression to an OSA diagnosis.

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5 thoughts on “Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

  1. L.M. Reply

    This article fails to mention the treatment for UARS. So what are the methods for treating UARS that are similar yet different to the CPAP used for OSA?? Why is treatment not revealed in this article? The article states that CPAP is not used, but why?

    “Methods for treating UARS are similar to OSA, but differ in that CPAP (the most common treatment for OSA) is usually a last resort in those with upper airway resistance syndrome.”

  2. Anonymous Reply

    I just recently consulted with a dentist who was trained at the Las Vegas Institute, specializing in oral dental appliances for UARS. She sent me home with a device that tracks sleep patterns as you sleep. I wore it for 2 nights and the results showed i have UARS. She recommended i consult with an ENT and then after that, return to her practice to have an oral appliance made to reduce the symptoms. I would google the Las Vegas Institute to see who has dentists that have been trained in your state. Alternatively, i would consult with an ENT or anyone offering sleep disorder services.

    • Lisa Reply

      Do you know the name of the device?
      I had a home study re: OSA, but UARS was not tested by that device.

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