What is snoring?
You may recognise snoring as the harsh sound that occurs when you sleep. It is the result of air flowing past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing a vibration in the tissues as you breathe. Some snoring every now and then is normal, but for others, it can be a chronic problem and indicate something more serious like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Snoring can place a great strain on relationships. About 18% of people have said that snoring is the main cause of arguments in their relationship, and 30% sleep in separate rooms due to their partner’s snoring. As you can see, snoring is a serious problem. Thankfully, making lifestyle changes like losing weight and sleeping on your side can help reduce or stop your snoring. There are also medical devices and surgery available.
What are the symptoms of snoring?
Snoring is often associated with OSA, a dangerous sleep disorder that has been found to worsen heart disease. If you experience frequent snoring with the symptoms below, it may be a sign to see a doctor.
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Gasping or choking in your sleep
- Extremely loud snoring that disturbs your partner’s sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Headaches in the morning
- Sore and dry throat when you wake up
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- In children, they may exhibit behavioural issues or poor attention span
In addition, OSA is often characterised by loud snoring followed by a few moments of silence. This happens due to a pause in breathing, and then shortly a loud snort or gasping sound as your brain signals you to wake up.
What causes snoring?
When you sleep, the muscles in your soft palate, tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can also relax, partially blocking your airway and vibrating. The narrower your airway, the more forceful the airflow is, the stronger the tissue vibration and hence the louder your snoring grows.
Snoring is usually caused by the following:
Are you overweight? People who are overweight tend to have extra tissues in the back of their throats that can narrow their airways. Some people (overweight or not) may have a low and thick soft palate that can narrow their airways. An elongated uvula also causes an obstruction in airflow.
If you tend to drink before bed, you might realise that you snore a lot. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles which increases your chances of snoring.
If you have a deviated nasal septum, it can contribute to your snoring — so does chronic nasal congestion.
Lack of sleep can lead to throat relaxation.
Avoid sleeping on your back as gravity’s effect on the throat narrows the airway, causing loud and frequent snoring.
Who is at risk of snoring?
You are at risk of snoring if you are:
Men are likely to snore more or develop sleep apnea more than women as men have narrower air passages.
People who are overweight are more likely to snore as fatty tissue can contribute to snoring. Even if you’re not overweight, carrying excess weight around your neck or throat can cause snoring — so it might be a good idea to lose some weight.
Have a narrow airway
Some people may have a narrow airway caused by a long soft palate or large tonsils.
As mentioned, alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, which increases your risk of snoring.
Have nasal problems
If your nose is always congested, your risk of snoring is higher.
Have a family history of snoring or OSA
OSA and snoring tends to run in the family.
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