Snoring is a common condition that affects men and women of all ages. People snore when their breathing is partially obstructed while sleeping. Aside from annoying your partner, snoring can indicate a more serious underlying health condition.
According to studies, half of all adults snore sometimes. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing those tissues to vibrate as you breathe, creating those all too familiar and very irritating sounds.
Simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol before bed, or sleeping on your side can often reduce snoring. Alternatively, a new generation of medical devices can reduce snoring significantly, as can surgery. However, these solutions aren’t suitable or necessary for everyone who snores.
Snoring Causes & Risk Factors
Many factors, including your weight, alcohol intake, allergies and the structure of your mouth or sinuses can contribute to snoring. When you fall asleep and drift into a deep sleep, your soft palate (muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue, and throat) relaxes. Those tissues can then partially block your airway and vibrate. The narrower your airway, the more the tissue vibrates causing your snoring to get louder.
The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:
- It’s a guy thing! Men are more likely to snore or have sleep apnea than women.
- Overweight or obese people often have extra tissue in the back of their throats narrowing their airways causing snoring or OSA.
- Sleeping position. Snoring is typically most frequent and loudest when sleeping on the back as gravity narrows the airway in the throat.
- Drinking alcohol before bed can relax your throat muscles contributing to snoring.
- Chronic nasal congestion or a structural defect such as a deviated septum can contribute to you snoring.
- A narrow airway (low, thick soft palate) large tonsils or adenoids, can cause snoring.
- Not getting enough sleep can lead to further throat relaxation and contribute to snoring
- Having a family history of snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring may also be linked with obstructive sleep apnea. This is a potentially serious condition where your throat tissue blocks your airway preventing you from breathing.
OSA produces loud snoring followed by silence when your breathing stops. Eventually, this pause signals your brain to wake up, causing you to wake with a loud snort and often gasping for breath.
This broken breathing pattern may repeat itself during the night, resulting in broken sleep. OSA sufferers usually experience four or five interruptions to their breathing every hour they are asleep.
Seven Common OSA Warning Signs
Not all snorers suffer from OSA, but if snoring is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, visit a doctor to check for OSA:
- Restless sleep including gasping for breath at night
- Your snoring is so loud it disrupts your partner’s sleep
- Chest pains during the night
- Sore or raspy throat
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Headaches in the morning
Similarly, if your child snores, ask your pediatrician about it. Common childhood nose and throat problems such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids and obesity can narrow a child’s airway, leading to your child developing OSA.
Common OSA Complications
Aside from disrupting a bed partner’s sleep, chronic snoring if caused by OSA may put you at risk for other complications, including:
- Increased risk of developing behavior problems, such as mood swings, outbursts of frustration, or anger, while children can become more aggressive and experience learning problems.
- Problem concentrating and daytime sleepiness
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions and stroke
- Higher risk of motor vehicle accidents due to lack of sleep
Snoring is a common condition that can affect both men and women, although it is more common in men and people who are overweight. Snoring tends to worsen with age. Aside from its relationship downside, occasional snoring is usually not serious. However, chronic snoring can impact the quality of your sleep, and medical advice is often needed to help sufferers, and their loved ones, enjoy a good night’s rest.
Featured photo credit: Snoring Couple
Featured photo credit: Tom Clark via wakeuptothesunriselight.com