THE BOTTOM LINE
- Many factors can cause snoring and it may be detrimental to your health
- Health Alert: Your snoring might be a sign of sleep apnea
- Phew! You can reduce or eliminate snoring with a variety of interventions
If you are among the millions of people who snore, you might want to read this article. Sure, snoring is pretty common, but it has a dark side. That nightly freight train blowing out of your orifices is a major deterrent to sleep and is also a symptom in serious health conditions like sleep apnea.
What exactly is snoring?
A “melodic” sound is created when the soft tissues in the back of your throat vibrate as you breathe, leading to upper airway turbulence. Snoring now and then is generally not a big deal but can become a chronic problem for some people.
What causes snoring?
- Mouth anatomy: Factors such as your palate’s shape and thickness can obstruct airflow and cause vibrations during breathing while you sleep.
- Nasal problems: Nasal congestion, allergies, polyps, rhinitis, or a deviated septum.
- Alcohol consumption: Skip the nightcap! Alcohol (consumed within two hours before bed) relaxes muscle tone in the back of the throat, which causes snoring or makes it worse. It can even induce sleep apnea in some people.
- Sleep position: Due to gravity’s effects, sleeping on your back can cause a narrowing of the airways, increasing the frequency and volume of your snoring.
- Sleep deprivation: When you don’t get enough sleep, your throat muscles may become too relaxed.
What can increase my risk of snoring?
- Age: Aging causes a loss in muscle tone in our palates, which can lead to upper airway turbulence.
- Gender: Men are more likely to snore than women.
- Weight: People who are overweight may also have extra tissue around their upper airways that increase vibrations.
- Substances: Drinking alcohol, taking medications such as muscle relaxers, or smoking (which irritates the delicate tissues in your nose and throat).
How does snoring affect my sleep?
Unsurprisingly, it is a major nuisance to sleep. That chainsaw running in the back of your throat as you sleep can cause micro-awakenings. This results in disruption of sleep cycles and reduced overall sleep time for both you and your sleep partner.
How does snoring affect my health?
It is associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders. It often causes throat irritation and may lead to daytime sleepiness and reduced overall energy. Sometimes it is a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. So, yeah, it affects your health.
GUIDE TO STOP SNORING
1. MEASURE YOUR SNORING
Make a sleep diary or use an app like the Snorelab app to help you better understand your problem and monitor your progress.
2. BEDTIME REMEDIES
Sleep on your side or prop yourself up with pillows. You can also try using an anti-snoring mouth appliance or anti-snore pillow. Keep your bedroom air moist to help ease your nasal tissues. Treat nasal problems with nasal sprays, decongestants, strips, or a neti pot to reduce inflammation.
3. LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Improve your body composition, quit smoking, limit alcohol and sedatives before bed, and try these anti-snoring throat exercises.
For some people, medical intervention is needed. Some medical treatments for snoring are CPAP machines, palatal implants, custom-fitted dental devices, and surgical interventions such as laser reconstruction or tonsillectomy.
My snoring ruins my partner's sleep too,
what should I do?
You can try to reduce the impact on your partner by offering them earplugs or using a sound machine. In extreme cases, you may have to sleep in separate rooms.
- Try bedtime remedies like anti-snore devices and different sleep positions
- Improve your body composition and limit drugs, alcohol, and smoking
- Seek medical treatments or devices like a CPAP machine
Bottom Line: Many factors can cause snoring and it may be detrimental to your health. You can reduce or eliminate snoring with a variety of intervention techniques!
SWAN DIVE INTO SCIENCE!
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB): Snoring is considered a form of sleep-disordered breathing (see table). The severity of SDBs varies from mild (primary snoring) to severe (obstructive sleep apnea).
Diagnostic tools: In most cases, the type of SDB you have is diagnosed using an overnight polysomnogram, which examines sleep markers such as brain waves, heart rate, airflow, and muscle tone. This data can sometimes be gathered from equipment used in your own home.
Sleep apnea: There are different types of sleep apnea, the most common being obstructive sleep apnea. It leads to repetitive collapse of the upper airway during sleep. This can lead to blood oxygen desaturation and sleep fragmentation.
What are the risks of SDBs?: When an SDB such as apnea goes untreated, it increases your risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and stroke. SDBs may also lead to altered metabolism, diabetes, dementia, and suppression of adiponectin (an anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, insulin-sensitizing compound released from adipocytes).
Medical interventions: In some cases, the only way to treat SDB is through medical interventions such as:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to keep airways open
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty to shorten the uvula
- Palatal implants to help prevent collapse of the soft palate
- Somnoplasty to remove excess tissues of the uvula and soft palate
- Custom-fitted dental devices to help open your airway
- Surgical procedures, such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy
Follow-up on the science:
- Snoring is a risk factor for hypertension independently of sleep apnea link
- A study on children who snore found they had reduced levels of sleep spindles during sleep, indicative of sleep disturbance link
- One study found that performing anti-snoring exercises reduced the frequency and intensity of snoring by 60% link