Have you every woken up because your roommate or your partner was snoring too loud?
Well, once in a while everyone snores during their sleep – some more than others! – and it can be a real inconvenience to the person sleeping next to you. Saying that it is just an inconvenience is an understatement because it has been linked to various health problems that range from daytime fatigue and irritability to more pressing concerns such as developing obstructive sleep apnea and creating relationship problems between your partner.
1. What is snoring?
In simple terms, it is noisy breathing when you are sleeping. The mechanics of snoring are not that complex. Essentially, what happens is that when you are awake the muscles of the pharynx (throat) and the tongue have a certain amount of tension in them but when you are in a supine position (meaning laying on your back) while you sleep, the muscles of your tongue and pharynx relax. This leads to the constriction of the air passage. When you breathe in with force, the pharynx vibrates. This produces the sound that you call snoring.
But the good news is that it is curable!
2. Causes of snoring
Snoring can occur for various reasons but identifying why is the first step to treating the issue. Engage your partner to monitor your sleep pattern. This will help build trust and show your level of seriousness for dealing with this problem and along with that show how much you value your relationship.
What are these reasons?
- Age: As you get older, the tone of your muscles decrease including the muscle tone of your tongue and pharynx. This will cause narrowing of the air passage leading to snoring
- Obesity: If your BMI is above 30 then you are medically obese. The thing with obesity is that the deposits of fat around your neck will cause the narrowing of the air passage leading to snoring
- Your Anatomy: The way you are built will affect the way you sleep. If we compare men and women, men are more prone to snore as they have narrower air passages. If you have enlarged tonsils or adenoids, cleft palate or long uvula this can also be the cause of your snoring problem
- Sinus Problems : If your nasal passages are obstructed or blocked due to a stuffy nose this will create a vacuum leading to forced inspiration and then snoring
- Smoking, Alcohol, Medication: Smoking has been linked to causing inflammation of the upper air passageways leading to narrowing. Alcohol acts as a relaxant decreasing the muscle tone while medications like benzodiazepine and barbiturates act as tranquillizers and decrease the muscle tone. All these pose as risk factors for snoring
- Sleep posture : If you sleep on your back you are more prone to snore during the night
3. Symptoms of snoring
Snoring itself can lead to sleep apnea which is a potentially harmful condition so if you’re snoring then it’s probably best to get this checked by your doctor.
Snoring can cause a wide array of symptoms:
- Number one on this list is excessive day time fatigue. You may experience lethargy while carrying on with your everyday routine which is due to lack of proper sleep during the night
- Headaches are another symptom, especially during the morning after you wake up
- Irritability and fatigue which can affect your interaction with other people and create social as well as psychological problems
- Decreases sex drive (libido)
- It can also affect your cognition which includes your attention span and your memory along with your overall level of awareness
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious condition in which a person stops breathing for a few seconds during the night due to obstruction of the air passages and then a sudden gasp of air which signals the resumption of breathing. OSA itself is a risk factor for the development of hypertension, heart attack and stroke
4. How to stop snoring?
There are various treatment options for snoring but this will depend on your visit to a sleep specialist who, after performing a sleep test, will determine which option is best for you.
Life Style Modification
- Losing weight: Losing a few pounds will result in a decrease in the amount of fat around your neck lessening the incidence of snoring
- Exercise: Exercising various muscles in your body will lead to improved tone of those muscles and an indirect effect on the muscles of your throat (pharynx) leading to improved air way passage functioning
- Avoid smoking and alcohol intake: They both lead to inflammation and relaxation of the muscles so avoiding these substances will improve your condition
- Changing your sleeping position: Instead of sleeping on your back, try sleeping on your side. This will prevent your tongue from falling back into the throat and keep the airway open.
- Orthopedic pillow: This is a specially designed pillow that will keep the jaw open and keep reduce snoring
- Using appliances that are made by dentists to maintain a patent airway such as nasal strips and dilators
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A machine pumps air under pressure into your throat while you wear a mask over your mouth and nose which will keep the airway open when you sleep
- Surgery: Tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy or uvulopalatopharyngoplasty will remove tissues growth which are the cause of the narrowing and ultimately lead to an increased size of the airway
- Palatal implant: This is also known as the pillar procedure. It involves inserting plastic implants into the soft palate to prevent it from collapsing
- Treating your nasal disorders will lead to a decreased incidence of snoring
The best way to stop snoring is to stick to the lifestyle adjustment scheme and follow the treatment plan laid out by your physician. For sleep apnea patients, having a good CPAP machine will really help during sleep. Along with having a good quality CPAP pillow, this will benefit anyone with a neck problem and aid in the relief from snoring ensuring a sound sleep.
Snoring is a condition which is often overlooked but if it remains untreated it leads to various problems including social, psychological and mental issues along with the chance of developing sleep apnea.
If you snore, take measures before it goes too far and causes complications.