Do you snore? Or do you live with someone who snores? If so, you know how frustrating this can be to both the person who is snoring and anyone else within earshot. Snoring can cause excessive night time waking due to the noise. This leads to daytime sleepiness, poorer attention span, and irritability. You certainly don't want that for yourself or for other family members with whom you live.
Everyone sleeps easier when there is no snoring. Harmonious daytime relationships can much more easily be maintained when everyone is sleeping through a quiet, peaceful night.
Let's find out some of the causes and treatments of snoring. This will hopefully allow you to discover ways you can eliminate or decrease snoring and regain your inner peace.
What parts of the body are involved in making the snoring sound?
If you snore, this happens when the muscles in the palate (roof) of your mouth, your tongue and your throat relax while you are asleep. In turn, this relaxation of tissues causes some partial blocking of the airway, and will vibrate as air goes through, making the snoring sound. The narrower your airway becomes, the harder your airflow pushes. This makes your tissue vibration increase even more, and your snoring therefore becomes louder.
The key here is that anything which causes a narrowing in your airway will cause the tissue vibration as air moves in and out and the snoring.
Causes of snoring
There are many different causes of snoring (reference 1). Some of these are temporary conditions, such as a cold or allergies.
Other factors which can cause snoring are the anatomy of your mouth and your sinuses. Anything which causes a narrow airway can lead to snoring. Therefore, having low or soft or thick palate will put you at risk of snoring (reference 1). Likewise, having extra tissue at the back of the throat is also a risk factor for snoring, as is enlarged tonsils or adenoids. A deviated septum (crooked partition between the nostrils) will also interfere with airflow and can therefore cause snoring (reference 1).
Sleep apnoea and weight issues
One cause of snoring is sleep apnoea. This is where the tissues of the back of the throat collapse and interfere with breathing (reference 2). Sleep apnoea can be a serious condition and should be treated promptly.
Sleep apnoea is associated with snoring, but conversely it's important to remember that not all cases of snoring will be caused by sleep apnoea (reference 2). If you snore, you should certainly see a doctor to investigate whether sleep apnoea is the cause.
Likewise, both snoring and sleep apnoea are also associated with being overweight, although again, not all sufferers of sleep apnoea (nor all those who snore) will be overweight. As you can see, there is some linkage between snoring, sleep apnoea, and being overweight.
Other risk factors
Men are more likely to snore than women (reference 3).
Genetics also plays a hand, because those whose parents snore have been shown to be more likely to snore themselves. It is thought that this may be due to the genetics of the way the tissues of the mouth, nose and throat are formed (reference 3).
Alcohol consumption, especially before bedtime, can also cause snoring due to the sedative effect of alcohol on the throat muscles, causing it to collapse during sleep (reference 3).
Treatment of snoring
There are many different ways to treat snoring. Obviously, the most suitable approach will depend on the cause of the snoring.
In cases where there is a medical cause of snoring, then this can be treated by a physician. For example, in cases of sleep apnoea, the most effective treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure device: this delivers air which is slightly pressurized to help keep the throat open at night (reference 2).
In the case of an anatomical cause of snoring, surgical options may be recommended, such as the removal of tonsils if they are enlarged (reference 3). There are many different types of surgical interventions possible depending on the tissue and area which is causing the snoring (reference 1).
Oral appliances which can be fitted by a dentist can also help relieve snoring (reference 1), as can over-the-counter nasal strips.
If you do not have a specific medical cause for your snoring, or have a medical cause that is not severe enough to require medical intervention, then there are several lifestyle steps you can take.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight, then losing weight can help relieve snoring. Extra tissue weight, especially around the throat and neck, can contribute to snoring. Healthy exercise and a sensible diet can go a long way decreasing weight all over the body.
- Change to a different sleep position. Avoid sleeping on your back, as that will make you more prone to snoring due to the pressure of gravity on your throat. Instead sleep on your side or your stomach. To aid with this, a full length body pillow can help you stay comfortably on your side without rolling over to your back.
- Avoid alcohol, especially before bedtime. Anything with a sedative effect, such as alcohol, will relax your throat muscles and promote snoring. So abstain from alcoholic beverages as much as possible.
- Use good sleep practices. Go to bed at a time that will allow you to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Those who don't get enough sleep for several nights in a row will become over-tired and their throat muscles will relax too much during their next sleep, resulting in snoring.
- Change to a non-allergenic (latex) pillow. Remember that allergies can cause narrowing of the airways. Therefore, change your pillow to a non-allergenic one. An ideal choice is a latex pillow, because it is naturally dust mite resistant, so those with dust mite allergies should experience relief. Without all the extra mucus in the nose, sinuses, and throat, the airways should become more open, alleviating snoring. It's also comforting to know that a latex pillow is ever so much more luxurious and restful than a regular pillow. If you feel that your mattress may be an allergy culprit too, you could also consider replacing your regular mattress with a latex one, where the rest of your body can also reap the benefits of its comfort.
There is relief out there for snorers. You don't have to put up with disrupted sleep, and indeed it's ideal to do whatever you can to improve the quality of your sleep.
It's always best to begin with a visit to your doctor. This will allow it to be determined whether your snoring has a medical or non-medical cause. In the case of a medical cause, your doctor will be able to offer a course of treatment, the exact nature of which will depend on the specific cause.
If your snoring is something which does not have a medical cause then there are many changes you can make to your lifestyle, outlined above. Follow these steps to a quieter, more restful night's sleep - for you and for anyone you live with. A better night's sleep results in a happier and more productive quality of life during the day.