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
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.
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