Snoring is the act of breathing loudly while sleeping. It’s a common ailment that can affect anyone, although it affects males and those who are overweight more frequently. Snoring seems to get worse as you get older.
Snoring isn’t usually a severe issue until it occurs frequently. It’s largely a pain in your bed partner’s neck. However, if you snore for a long time, you not only disrupt the sleep patterns of others around you, but you also harm your own sleep quality.
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A number of factors can lead to snoring, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight.
When you drift off to sleep, and progress from a light to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. When the tissues in your throat relax enough, they partially block your airway and vibrate. The more narrowed your airway gets, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This increases tissue vibration, which causes your snoring to grow louder.
Your mouth’s anatomy and shape: A low, thick soft palate can narrow your airway. Overweight people may have extra tissues in the back of their throats that may narrow their airways. Similarly, if the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula) is elongated, it can obstruct airflow and increase vibration.
Alcohol consumption: Too much alcohol consumption before bedtime can cause snoring, because it relaxes the throat muscles and lowers your natural defenses against airway obstruction.
Nasal problems: Chronic nasal congestion or a deviated nasal septum (a crooked partition between your nostrils) may contribute to snoring.
Sleep deprivation: Lack of sleep furthers throat relaxation.
Sleep position: Sleeping on the back causes the most frequent and loudest snoring because gravity’s effect on the throat narrows the airway.
Being overweight: Overweight or obese people are more likely to snore or have obstructive sleep apnoea.
Family history: Of snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea is a potential risk factor for the disorders
Gender: Men are more prone to snoring or have sleep apnoea than women.
Habitual snoring is more than just a disturbance for your bed partner’s sleep. Snoring that is associated with OSA, raises the risk of other complications, including:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Frequent frustration or anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- A greater risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions and stroke
- An increased risk of behavior problems, such as aggression or learning problems, in children with OSA
- An increased risk of motor vehicle accidents due to lack of sleep
Certain lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help reduce or cease snoring. Certain medical devices and surgery may help to reduce disruptive snoring, but these should be used only with a Doctor’s advice.
Snoring may often be associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Though not all snorers have OSA, it may be a good idea to seek further evaluation by a doctor if following symptoms are noticed, along with snoring:
- Pause in breathing during sleep
- Feeling extremely sleepy during daytime
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Headaches in the morning
- Sore throat on waking up
- Disturbed sleep
- Gasping or choking during sleeping
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Loud snoring that disrupts sleep of those nearby
- Poor attention span, behavioral issues, or poor performance in school children
In OSA, loud snoring is followed by periods of silence when breathing stops completely or nearly stops. Finally, this reduction or pause in breathing signals your waking up, which may be accompanied by a loud snort or gasping sound.
This pattern of breathing pauses may get repeated several times during the night, sometimes as much as five times during every hour of sleep. Due to disrupted sleep, the quality of sleep will be poor.
When to see a doctor
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, see your doctor. The doctor may advice you too do a sleep study to test for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Children may suffer from OSA too. Nose and throat problems, for e.g. enlarged tonsils, and obesity, can often narrow a child’s airway, which can lead to your child developing OSA. If your child snores, ask your pediatrician about it.
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