Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2017 -- Chances are, if you don’t snore, you probably know someone who does. That constant, and usually annoying, attribute may result in restless nights for you or your partner, but for many people it can also severely impact their overall health. The American Sleep Apnea Association currently estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition often associated with heavy snoring. This results from an airway blockage during sleep, often the tongue falling against the soft palate, that prevents oxygen from reaching the brain and wakes the sleeper. 

Often unnoticed by the patient, OSA results in fragmented sleep patterns causing daytime fatigue and cardiovascular problems. However, the question remains of how to differentiate normal snoring from sleep apnea. 

Yaselly Sanchez, Junshi Wang, Pan Han, and Haibo Dong, of the University of Virginia, along with collaborator Jinxiang Xi, of California Baptist University, will present their research results on the 3-D modeling of uvula vibrational patterns and sound frequencies during snoring at the 70th annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, being held Nov. 19-21, 2017, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado. 

“Specifically, we try to study the vibration of uvula, or soft palate, and how this vibration affects the airflow and sound generation,” Xi said. 

Using 3-D modeling to analyze the complex geometry of uvula motion, they “are really taking advantage of the advanced computational tools and are trying to understand this kind of traditional biomedical problem,” Dong said. 

Everyone’s uvula has a slightly different shape and size, along with geometric and flow variations, making it difficult to create one definitive airway flow model. In an effort to construct as accurate a 3-D model as possible, magnetic resonance (MR) scans of males and females from a broad range of ages, from 8 months to 80 years old, provided the basis of the anatomical and dynamical uvula model. 

The fundamental physics related to snoring frequency patterns that models like this can reveal have the potential to impact OSA health practices. Identifying someone’s uvula vibration speed can help differentiate between apnea snoring and normal snoring and also assist with identifying individuals who are at risk for developing apnea symptoms. 

“We found that the frequency of vibrating structures in the airway, including that of the uvula, is crucial in promoting airway collapse,” Xi said. “There may exist a threshold in the vibration frequency that triggers the airway collapse. If we can find some way to suppress the vibration frequency below the threshold, we may be able to eliminate the snoring symptoms or even prevent the airway collapse.” 

Along with snoring research, this technology can be applied to other biological problems influenced by flow and fluid dynamics including those involving brain vessels, blood flow and ventricular heart issues. “We are looking for the consistency of the software [… ] and also understanding the physics behind that, so we found out this kind of approach is [having or] certainly can have lots of impact on other kinds of fields,” Dong said. 


Abstract: Q4.00010: “Physics-based analysis and control of human snoring," by Yaselly Sanchez, Junshi Wang, Pan Han, Jinxiang Xi and Haibo Dong, is at 3:13-3:26 p.m. MST, Nov. 21, 2017, in Room 404 of the Colorado Convention Center. 


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We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact Julia Majors ([email protected], 301-209-3090) who can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips or background information. 


A press briefing featuring a selection of newsworthy research will be webcast live from the conference Monday, Nov. 20. Topics for the briefing include everyday occurrences -- such as citrus peel squirts, the explosive reaction when water meets hot oil and the physics of the human body’s snoring and sinuses -- and the unusual -- such as how a star-nosed mole smells underwater and how a dinosaur inspired a robot. Times to be announced. More information can be found at the following link: 


The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure.