Snoring is an issue that affects millions of people around the world.
Indeed, according to one study in Britain, snoring is cited as the second most common reason for a couple to divorce. (Categorised under the heading of ‘unreasonable behaviour’).
In another survey in Australia, 40% of respondents said they received a complaint from a neighbour about the loudness of their snoring.
While it can be very frustrating and embarrassing for you as an individual, not to mention grating for your partner or neighbours, many people are in the dark about what snoring is and why people do it.
In this article we will look at some of the common causes of snoring and what can be done to reduce or eliminate it.
What is snoring?
Snoring is the sound made by the vibration of tissues in the upper airway during sleep. It occurs when air is unable to move freely through the nose and mouth whilst you slumber. At this time, the vibration of tissues in the upper airway, such as the tongue, soft palate, and uvula, produces the sound of snoring.
Although it can often be harmless, sometimes it signifies the prevalence of a more serious condition. So, if you or someone you know is affected by snoring, it might be a good idea to consult with a doctor to determine the underlying cause and discuss potential treatment options with them.
Why do we snore?
There are several factors that can cause a person to snore. These include the following:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Usually shortened to OSA, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by repeated interruptions of breathing during sleep. This is due to partial or complete blockage of their airways.
People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently, but not everyone who snores has OSA. That said, if a person is also choking or gasping for air during sleep, has problems with concentration or memory or feels sleepy all the time, then this could be an indication they are suffering from it.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have OSA, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Treatment options can include lifestyle changes, losing weight and avoiding alcohol. It may also involve the use of CPAP equipment from suppliers like CPAP Direct to help keep the airway open during sleep.
In some cases, surgery may even be required to correct the underlying cause of OSA.
There is a strong link between obesity and snoring. Obesity, especially obesity that is concentrated in the neck, can increase the likelihood of snoring. This is because excess fat in the neck can narrow the airway, making it more difficult for air to flow freely and increasing the risk of airway obstruction during sleep.
In addition, obesity can also increase the risk of other factors that can contribute to snoring, such as the relaxation of the muscles in the throat and the production of excess mucus.
As well as having a range of other health benefits, treating obesity through weight loss and lifestyle changes can often help alleviate snoring.
Alcohol consumption, especially just before you go to bed, can increase the likelihood of snoring. This is because alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat, making it more likely that the airway will become obstructed during sleep.
In addition, alcohol can also interfere with normal sleep patterns, making it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep and increasing the risk of excessive daytime sleepiness.
This can be especially problematic for people who already have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), as alcohol can make the symptoms of OSA worse.
A simple reduction in the amount of alcohol you drink and the time in which you drink can significantly reduce a person’s propensity to snore.
It has been well documented how bad smoking is for your general health. But it can also be a contributing factor to snoring too The smoke from cigarettes can irritate and inflame the tissues in the airway, making it more likely that the airway will become obstructed and lead to snoring.
Additionally, smoking can increase the production of mucus in the airway, which can further contribute to airway obstruction and snoring.
If you snore, quitting smoking can help reduce the severity of it and improve your overall health.
There are many resources available to help you quit smoking, including nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medications, and support from friends, family, or a peer group.
Another common reason for people to snore is because of nasal congestion.
When your nose is blocked, it can make it more difficult to breathe through your nostrils, therefore forcing you to breathe through your mouth instead.
This can increase the likelihood of snoring, as it can cause the tissues in the back of the throat to vibrate.
Nasal congestion can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription decongestants, nasal sprays, antihistamines, or saline nasal rinses. In some cases, a doctor may also recommend using a nasal dilator, such as a nasal strip, to help keep the airway open during sleep.
As we age, the tissues in the mouth, throat, and airway can become less toned, which can increase the likelihood of snoring.
Additionally, changes in hormones and other factors associated with ageing can cause the muscles in the throat to relax more, making it more likely that the airway will become obstructed during sleep.
For older adults, using a CPAP machine may deliver pressurised air to the airway, and can help keep it open during sleep and reduce snoring. Similarly, wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance, such as a mandibular advancement device may help as well.
Your sleep position can play a role in whether you snore. Certain sleep positions can increase the likelihood of snoring, while others can help reduce or eliminate it.
For example, sleeping on your back can increase the likelihood of snoring, as it can cause the tongue and soft palate to collapse to the back of the throat, partially blocking the airway.
On the other hand, sleeping on your side can help reduce or eliminate snoring, as it can help keep the airway open and prevent the tongue and soft palate from collapsing to the back of the throat.
If you are not used to sleeping on your side, you should try using a body pillow or a special device that encourages side sleeping.
Aside from OSA there are several other medical conditions that can cause snoring. These include hypothyroidism, allergies, hormonal changes (especially when pregnant) and acid reflux.
If you suffer from any of these ailments, you should contact your doctor for treatment options.
A good night’s sleep is a basic human need.
It plays a critical role in keeping our immune system and metabolism functioning correctly, along with our memory and ability to learn.
If your snoring, or that of your partner or neighbour is preventing you from getting one, it can be a source of real frustration.
Here are some things you can do about it.