When is my snoring bad enough that I should visit an ENT specialist?

Snoring is perhaps the most common ENT condition that goes overlooked by many. Snoring, while it is incredibly common, can severely affect the quality of one’s life and the people sharing a room with them. 

There are many causes of snoring and for some patients, it could be a sign that they are suffering from a more serious medical condition such as sleep apnea. Many of my patients don’t believe that snoring is a serious condition and they are reticent to seek help for it. While mild snoring may not require direct treatment, in certain cases, the snoring is serious enough that you should definitely visit a specialist to get it checked out.

Sleeping on the back

What causes snoring?

Snoring is primarily caused through vibrations of the uvula, the fleshy lump at the back of your throat that hangs down from your soft palette. The reasons why someone could develop snoring can include:

  • Unique mouth anatomy that leads to a narrow airway
  • Consumption of alcohol that relaxes throat muscles
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Nasal congestion 
  • Improper sleeping habits
  • Sleep position (sleeping on the back instead of the side)

There are other important risk factors that can contribute to a person’s snoring habits, including:

  • Gender: Men are more predisposed to snoring than women.
  • Weight & body fat percentage: People who are overweight or obese tend to have a higher body fat percentage which leads to a smaller airway.
  • Chronic nasal problems: Patients with structurally smaller airways or deviated nasal septums will suffer from a reduced size of airway which can lead to chronic snoring.
  • Lifestyle: Frequent drinkers are more predisposed to snoring than those who do not imbibe alcohol frequently.
  • Genetic factors: You may be genetically disposed to certain conditions like obstructive sleep apnea.

How can snoring affect my health and well-being?

For those of us who share a bed with others, our partners being a snorer can make falling asleep far more difficult. Our quality of sleep is also compromised as light sleepers might be awakened by the loud snoring of our partners. This can lead to further complications like daytime sleepiness, increased aggression, difficulty concentrating during the day, frustration against one’s partner, etc. This can be potentially ruinous to one’s physical and emotional well-being and many patients have reported relationships breaking down due to their partner’s severe snoring.

If you feel that snoring is greatly affecting you or your partner’s quality of sleep and life, it is time that you visit an ENT specialist to get proper treatment and medical advice.

For more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea where snoring is chronic, sufferers stand a greater risk of high blood pressure and are exposed to a variety of other heart related conditions, as well as an increased chance of stroke. Due to their quality of sleep being low, it is more common for children with obstructive sleep apnea to develop learning problems in school as well as being faced with more difficulty controlling their aggression. A lack of sleep for adults with obstructive sleep apnea could also lead to a greater risk of motor-related accidents. Find out more about snoring here.

What can I do to treat my snoring?

There are many effective remedies to reduce the severity or fully correct one’s snoring. Simple lifestyle changes such as weight loss or reducing alcohol intake can be very effective when applied correctly and consistently. 

Certain basic actions that can alleviate one’s snoring include:

  • Sleeping on your side rather than your back
  • Elevation of the head with extra pillows
  • Sleeping with a contoured pillow designed to give head elevation
  • Avoidance of alcohol before sleeping

For those suffering from snoring due to allergic reactions or have chronic nasal issues, an ENT specialist can prescribe medication such as decongestants and anti-histamines to allay the symptomatic causes of snoring.

For those suffering from sleep apnea, using a CPAP machine can help to open up your airways and reduce your snoring. The technology used in modern CPAP machines are highly advanced and the machines have become relatively comfortable and non-disruptive to use. 

If these remedies do not work and your snoring is mainly due to structural issues in your oral cavity and soft palette, you will need to consult with an ENT specialist to discuss surgical options. There are certain invasive surgeries that can correct your airflow and eliminate your snoring once and for all. If you have issues with snoring, consider visiting ENT Surgeons.