From gentle snuffles to loud rasps and snorts, snoring is common. About 40% of normal adults snore regularly and 95% of snorers say their snoring bothers their family or partner. However, why do we snore in the first place? And what can we do to avoid it? Let us find out!
During sleep, our neck muscles relax and in some cases the throat partly closes and becomes narrow, causing the vibration sound known as snoring. Simply put, snoring is the sound of obstructed breathing.
Nearly everyone snores now and then, but for some people it can be a chronic problem. Sometimes it may also indicate a serious health condition which can be life threatening.
Causes For Snoring
When you doze off and progress from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they partially block your airway and vibrate.
The more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This increases tissue vibration, which causes your snoring to grow louder. The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:
- Your mouth anatomy: Having a low, thick soft palate can narrow your airway. People who are overweight may have extra tissues in the back of their throats that may narrow their airways. Likewise, if the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula) is elongated, airflow can be obstructed and vibration increased.
- Alcohol consumption: Snoring can also be brought on by consuming too much alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol relaxes throat muscles and decreases your natural defenses against airway obstruction.
- Nasal problems: Chronic nasal congestion or a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum) may contribute to your snoring.
- Sleep deprivation: Not getting sufficient sleep can lead to further throat relaxation.
- Sleep position: Snoring is typically most frequent and loudest when sleeping on the back as gravity’s effect on the throat narrows the airway.
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Snoring could indicate sleep apnea (a serious sleep disorder where your breathing is briefly interrupted many times each night). Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea, so if you’re suffering from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day, it could be an indication of sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing problem.
Call your doctor if you or your sleep partner have noticed any of the following red flags:
- If you snore loudly and heavily and are tired during the day.
- You stop breathing, gasp, or choke during sleep.
- You fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as during a conversation or a meal.
Though snoring can be extremely trivial or extremely fatal in some cases, here are a few guidelines to help you stop snoring:
- Change your sleeping position: Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward.
- Sleep on your side instead of your back.
- Try an anti-snoring mouth appliance: These devices, which resemble an athlete’s mouth guard, help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw and/or your tongue forward during sleep. While a dentist-made appliance can be expensive, cheaper do-it-yourself kits are also available.
- Keep bedroom air moist: Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat, so if swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier may help.
- Make appropriate changes to your lifestyle: Lose weight, quit smoking and avoid alcohol before going to bed. Exercise in general can reduce snoring, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss.Talk to your physician if these approaches do not work. There are medical options that could cure your snoring problems.
If snoring is a problem for you or a loved one, don’t hesitate to bring it up with a health care professional who can develop an individualized treatment plan as snoring interferes with the quantity and quality of your sleep. Do comment below if you found this blog useful, thank you!