What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is a common problem for many people. It can affect their health as well as the quality of their sleep and the sleep of their loved ones, but what is it exactly, what causes it and what are the consequences?
By understanding snoring and some of its basic features you may discover ways to eliminate or at least lessen it. Read our article and find out everything you need to know about snoring, its causes and possible solutions.
What Is Snoring?
Snoring is loud breathing during sleep that occurs when the air passages are narrowed or blocked and when the air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat and causes them to vibrate and create that unpleasant sound as you breathe. It is a common condition that can affect anyone although it is more common in men and overweight people. It can also worsen with age.
For some people, snoring can be a chronic problem, and besides being bothersome and embarrassing, it may also affect daytime performance, lead to fatigue, increase the risk of drowsy driving and point to some serious health conditions.
Symptoms of Snoring
People who snore often are not aware of it, but the following symptoms may point to snoring:
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth and sore throat in the morning
- Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Gasping or coughing during the night
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- In children, poor attention and performance in school and various behavioral issues
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring happens when the upper airway is narrowed or when nasal breathing is obstructed. The air can’s pass freely through your nose and throat which causes surrounding tissue and muscles to vibrate and produce that irritating and well-known sound.
These are some factors that can increase the risk of snoring:
- Age – Aging causes your throat to become narrower and the muscle tone in your throat to decrease which can lead to snoring.
- Obesity – Excessive weight, fatty tissue and poor muscle tone can lead to snoring. Even if you are not overweight, having a fatty tissue around your neck or throat can cause snoring.
- The way you are built – The way you are built and some hereditary physical features like a narrow throat, cleft palate, enlarged adenoids can cause snoring. Also, men naturally have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore.
- Nasal and sinus problems – Nasal or sinus infections can obstruct your nasal airways, make breathing more difficult and cause snoring. Certain deformities of the nose such as a nasal polyps and deviated septum (a structural change in the nasal wall that separates the nostrils) can also cause obstruction and snoring.
- Alcohol, smoking, and medications – Drinking alcohol, smoking and taking certain tranquilizing medications such as lorazepam and diazepam can relax throat and tongue muscles, cause them to collapse and fall back into the airway which may lead to snoring.
- Sleep position – The way you sleep can trigger snoring too. Sleeping on your back especially can cause your throat to relax too much and block the airway.
- Sleep Apnea – Snoring can also be the result of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted many times during the night. There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea that occurs when the muscles in your throat relax and block the airway.
- Central sleep apnea which is the result of your brain’s failure to send proper signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome which happens when you have both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
The Consequences of Snoring
In many cases snoring may have little effect on the quality of your sleep, but if your snoring is chronic, then it carries some serious health risks such as:
- Heart disease – Frequent and loud snoring resulting from sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure that may put strain on the heart and increase the risks of heart attack and stroke.
- Arrythmias – People with chronic snoring or sleep apnea are at higher risk of developing arrythmias. These are changes in the heart’s natural rhythm in which the heart may beat too slow or too fast or irregularly. Although arrythmias are common and often nonthreatening, when they are coupled with sleep apnea, they can cause serious heart problems.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD is a chronic digestive disease which may be caused by chronic snoring or sleep apnea. The disordered way in which throat closes during breathing can cause changes in pressure which may suck stomach acids back up into the esophagus and irritate it.
- Headaches – Recent studies show that there is a connection between snoring and severe morning headaches. Snoring interferes with breathing which leads to fluctuations in the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream and eventually headaches.
- Pulmonary hypertension – Low oxygen levels in the blood caused by irregular breathing can constrict blood vessels in the lungs, which may lead to pulmonary hypertension if left untreated.
- Disrupted sleep cycles – Snoring may cause frequent interruptions in breathing which may frequently wake you from sleep and disrupt your sleeping cycles.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness – Excessive daytime sleepiness can affect both the snorer and the person who sleeps next to the snorer. Poor night’s sleep caused by snoring can lead to drowsiness during the day and interfere with the quality of your life and increase the risk for car accidents.
- Mental health issues – Snoring and sleep apnea can affect your mental health and lead to anxiety and serious depression.
Behavioral Therapies for Snoring
Although finding the right solution for your snoring may seem like a daunting task, there are certain techniques that are effective in alleviating or completely getting rid of symptoms. Many of these are simple natural remedies that you can try at home, but not all of them will work for you, so you need to arm yourself with patience and willingness to experiment with different solutions until you find the right ones.
You can begin with a few simple lifestyle changes such as:
Changing Your Sleeping Position
Using a lofty pillow or one of those specially designed to prevent snoring will elevate your head a bit, ease your breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. You can also try sleeping on your side instead of your back as this won’t cause your throat muscles to relax too much.
Using a Quality Mattress
Sometimes buying a new mattress that is specially designed to alleviate the symptoms of snoring or eliminate them. completely can make all the difference. Click here to see what are our top choices for the best mattresses for snoring and pick one that will perfectly work for you.
Losing a little bit of weight can reduce fatty tissue around your throat that prevents normal breathing and decrease or stop snoring. Exercising even without losing weight can help reduce snoring as toning various muscles in your body will eventually lead to toning the muscles in your throat too, which as the result will reduce or stop snoring.
There are some exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in your throat like pronouncing certain vowels, singing, and curling the tongue in specific ways. This will strengthen the muscles in your upper respiratory tract and reduce snoring.
Avoiding cigarettes, Alcohol, Sleeping Pills, and Sedatives
Smoking increases the chances of snoring as it irritates the membranes in your nose and throat and in that way blocks the airways. Although it may be hard for you to quit smoking, doing this can bring quick snoring relief.
We have already mentioned that alcohol, sleeping pills and sedatives can relax the muscles in your throat too much, interfere with your breathing and cause snoring. Try to avoid alcohol right before bedtime and talk to your doctor if you have to use sleeping pills and sedatives as some of them encourage a deeper level of sleep which can only make snoring worse.
Keeping Your Bedroom Clean and Air Moist
If you are prone to allergies that can lead to stuffy nose and obstruct your airways, then you should make sure to reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom by cleaning and vacuuming it regularly, especially the area around your bed and the bed itself. You should also keep the air in your bedroom moist by using a humidifier as a dry air can easily irritate membranes in your nose and throat and cause the problem.
Anti-Snoring Products and Medical Treatments for Snoring
If behavioral changes don’t give any results, you should try some of the medical options. There are many new discoveries and advances in the treatment of snoring and many new products and devices that can help relieve snoring symptoms, and if these don’t give any significant results, there are various surgical procedures that may prove to be more effective.
The main idea behind anti-snoring pillows is to keep your head and upper body in a position that will stop snoring. These pillows are designed to tilt your head and upper body a bit and align the jaw, neck, and throat to maintain open airways, ease breathing and thus prevent snoring. Some of these special pillows are created to help snorers maintain a side-sleeping position.
Nasal Strips and Decongestants
Other anti-snoring products focus on the passages and airways in your nose. Nasal strips are placed on the nose bridge and as they attempt to straighten back to their original shape, they lift the sides of the nose and open nostrils and airways. They make breathing easier and provide relief for congestion due to colds, deviated septum or allergies, and reduce snoring.
Nose vents are nasal dilators usually made of silicone. They are available in different sizes and are used to widen the nostrils and keep them open which allows you to breathe deeply and prevents snoring.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy includes using a machine that blows pressurized air into a mask that you wear over your face and nose and prevents the airway from collapsing and causing snoring.
Oral Appliances and Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces
Oral appliances are specially designed dental mouthpieces that can pull the tongue and the lower jaw forward and prevent the throat muscles from blocking the airways. They facilitate breathing and reduce or totally eliminate snoring, and while some of them are available without medical guidance, many are tailored by dentists according to their patients’ specific needs.
Unlike oral appliances, anti-snoring mouthpieces are smaller, more portable, more discreet and easier to use, but they have pretty much the same effect as the oral appliances.
Certain surgical procedures such as Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy can widen your airways by correcting abnormalities or surgically removing parts of tissues.
Sleeping With a Snorer
Sleeping next to someone who is a loud snorer can be quite challenging, but there are some things that can help you get a better night’s sleep.
You can encourage your partner to use some of the methods or products that are mentioned above, but if this doesn’t help, you can try rolling him/her over to another sleeping position. As we have mentioned, snoring can often be the result of sleep position. If your partner is a back sleeper, his/her snoring may be the result of a relaxed tongue and throat muscles that block the airway.
Try to roll your partner to his/her side or sew a tennis ball or a couple of socks in the back of your partner’s sleep shirt. This will discourage rolling onto the back every time he/she tries to do that.
Besides this, you can get a white noise machine or smartphone application. White noise machines provide a neutral noise that can muffle the sounds of snoring. You can also download some of the white noise smartphone apps and play white noise during the night. These applications are gaining in popularity because they don’t take up any extra space and can include a wide variety of sounds, even nature sounds and ambient music.
Try getting a larger mattress to avoid sleeping in separate bedrooms as this can negatively impact your relationship. Getting a larger mattress will still allow you to be physically close to your partner while you won’t be bothered so much by his/her snoring. Click here to see what is our top choice for the best mattress for snoring. You can also try to go to bed before your partner and fall asleep before he/she begins snoring.
Meditation and various relaxation exercises can also help you fall asleep at night despite your partner’s snoring or calm you and help your go back to sleep if snoring wakes you up.