What Is Snoring?
Snoring is the audible sound that is sometimes made during sleep. Everyone may snore from time to time. According to statistics, nearly 40 million Americans snore on a regular basis.
Some may snore all night, every night while others snore intermittently. Studies suggest that snoring may occur equally among men and women, though the severity may be slightly worse in men. Snoring seems to be more common among older adults, and may become more serious with age, as well.
Causes Of Snoring
When we sleep, all of our muscles relax. This includes the muscles around the throat and also the tongue. When the tongue relaxes, it falls back toward the opening of the throat. At the same time, relaxed throat muscles become “floppy” and soft, which narrows the airway. This combination of effects leads to vibrations in the throat when we breathe in. Vibration may also occur upon exhalation, but typically much less intensely. The snoring sound correlates to the extent of narrowing in the airway. The more constricted the airway is, the greater the tissue vibration will be and, coincidently, the louder the snoring will be.
Snoring may occur for several reasons, sometimes a combination of them. These include:
- Softening and loosening of tissue due to natural aging
- Abnormalities in the anatomical structure of the throat or nose (nasal polyps, deviated septum)
- Functional abnormalities such as swelling in the airway due to allergies
- Alcohol consumption before sleeping, leading to increased muscle relaxation
- Use of sleeping pills for increased relaxation
- Muscle relaxant use
- Sleeping position, such as on the back, which invites the tongue to fall toward the airway
- An excessive weight that incurs more fatty tissue around the throat
What Are The Signs Of Snoring?
Interestingly, many people who snore are unaware of the noise they make when sleeping. A person may not realize they have a snoring problem unless told so by a spouse or someone who sleeps in close proximity to them. Without this feedback, a person may observe other signs of snoring such as:
- Morning headaches
- Dry throat or sore throat in the morning
- Excessive sleepiness throughout the day
- Unexplained weight gain
- Waking feeling unrested
- Waking in the night for no apparent reason
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
When To Contact A Doctor For Snoring
A thorough medical evaluation is necessary if a partner hears pauses in breathing during the night. Brief moments of silence in between loud snoring or sounds of choking or gasping are an indicator of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep condition. Snoring that interferes with sleep or daytime alertness and productivity should also be examined to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
What Is The Difference Between Snoring And Sleep Apnea?
Snoring is the sound that is made when air passing through the throat causes tissue vibration. Snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a concerning sleep disorder in which the airway completely closes for short moments during sleep. Most cases of sleep apnea are related to a direct obstruction in the airway. There is also a type of sleep apnea (central sleep apnea) that occurs because the brain forgets to signal to breathe.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses may be heard as silence followed by a choking or gasping noise. Episodes can last several seconds before an adrenaline rush prompts respiration. This process may repeat hundreds of times a night.
It is essential to obtain an accurate diagnosis for snoring to determine if sleep apnea is the true cause of noisy sleeping habits. Without proper management, sleep apnea can cause serious health concerns.
Snoring Treatment Options
Snoring treatment may include both lifestyle remedies and medical treatment to achieve the best results. Patients may be advised to avoid alcohol, muscle relaxants, and sleeping aids. Weight loss may be a necessary step in resolving a snoring problem. Some people are prescribed CPAP therapy to control chronic snoring and sleep apnea.
At St. Louis Sinus Center, relief may be found in a conservative treatment like Balloon Sinus Dilation or polyp removal. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP or UP3), which remodels the soft tissue in the airway, may also be considered.
The most appropriate approach to chronic snoring and sleep apnea can be identified through a comprehensive consultation and examination of the airway and nasal passages.
Medication Options For Snoring
Medications may help alleviate the severity of snoring if the problem is related to allergies or a cold. People with known allergies may try an over-the-counter medication or talk to their doctor about a prescription allergy treatment that can reduce swelling and inflammation in the nasal passageways. If snoring is related to a common cold, the problem should resolve on its own when the illness passes. Until then, it may help to take a decongestant.
Home Remedies For Snoring
Snoring may occur for a number of reasons. Depending on what those are, home remedies may or may not be helpful. Some strategies that have been recommended to reduce snoring include:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can press on the throat and cause snoring.
- Do not smoke.
- Limit alcohol consumption before bed.
- Avoid taking sedatives before bed as much as possible.
- Sleep on the side rather than the back.
- Elevate the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches. This can be especially helpful for those who find it difficult to side-sleep. It is not sufficient to sleep on multiple pillows. The head of the bed must be raised from underneath by placing blocks or other suitable items beneath the legs of the bed.
- Create a consistent sleep schedule to avoid becoming over-tired.
- Use a nasal dilator such as nasal strips that attach to the outside of the nose. Strips widen the nostrils to improve air flow.
How To Prevent Snoring
Snoring may be prevented depending on the underlying cause. The strategies mentioned on this page, such as maintaining a sleep schedule and sleeping on the side, may prevent snoring. Avoiding allergens and keeping the dust down in the home may also help prevent snoring. However, because there are so many factors that contribute to this habit, it is difficult to say that any strategy would successfully prevent a person from snoring.
How To Train Yourself To Stop Snoring
According to the Sleep Foundation, Researchers have found that oropharyngeal exercises performed when awake can help prevent excessive laxity in the back of the mouth and throat. Tissue that is toned is less likely to constrict the airway and vibrate during sleep. Studies indicate that precise exercises achieve the best results when performed at least 10 minutes a day, potentially a few times a day, for 3 consecutive months.
What Are The Dangers Of Untreated Snoring?
Snoring can be a disruptive habit that affects day to day life. On the mild side, untreated snoring can lead to:
- Persistent daytime fatigue
- Irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Chronic sore throat
More serious concerns related to untreated snoring include:
- Significantly increased risk of accidents
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Schedule A Consultation
St. Louis Sinus Center offers innovative solutions for chronic snoring and sleep apnea. contact our sleep care team today, please call 314.473.5433 to schedule a consultation with our experienced team at our office’s in St. Louis and Festus, MO. You can change your life with nose surgery and you can take the first step by speaking with us.