There is no denying that snoring causes sleepless nights and intense irritation for countless sufferers and their partners. The condition, identified simply as breathing noisily during sleep, affects an estimated 90 million American adults, with up to 37 million snoring regularly.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by the restriction of air passing through the airway. Most often, the obstruction of air originates in the throat when the throat muscles relax or the tongue falls backward. Snoring can also be caused by obstruction in the nasal cavity.
While both genders snore, men, particularly those who are overweight, are at the highest risk of developing persistent snoring. In addition to weight and gender, other factors that may lead to snoring include:
- Chronic nasal congestion, often caused by a deviated septum
- Drinking alcohol before going to sleep
- Cold, flu or allergies
- Sleeping position, specifically laying on your back
Snoring Health Risks and Consequences
Occasional, light snoring is typically nothing to be concerned about; however, persistent, loud snoring is often a sign of a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The word “apnea” means “cessation of breath.” Sufferers experience repeated apneas throughout the night, each lasting from several seconds up to a minute or more.
While not all snorers have sleep apnea, nearly everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Additional symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Sleepiness during the day
- A sore throat or dry mouth
- High blood pressure
- Headaches in the morning
- Restless, unsatisfying sleeping patterns
- Lack of concentration during the day
- Waking up choking or gasping for air
- Chest pain during the night
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Frequent need to urinate during the night
If snoring is accompanied by any of the above symptoms, consult a certified sleep professional who can help you identify the underlying cause of your condition. Untreated snoring that is a symptom of sleep apnea increases the risk of suffering serious health conditions, such as heart conditions, a stroke, or high blood pressure.
In the case of children, it is important to see a doctor if they snore. Little ones, too, can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can lead to learning difficulties or behavioral problems. Snoring can also be a sign that a child has a nose and throat problem, like enlarged tonsils, that needs to be addressed.
Most Common Methods to Stop Snoring
There are a number of common methods to try to stop snoring. The important factor to consider when choosing the right method is the origin of your snoring. Most snoring originates in the throat; though as mentioned earlier, snoring can also be the result of nasal blockage.
- Lifestyle changes. Losing weight and not drinking alcohol late at night may make a difference. Even just switching to sleeping on your side may significantly reduce snoring.
- Nasal cones and breathing strips are common over-the-counter solutions that may be effective for cases in which snoring is a result of nasal blockage. Nasal cones are plastic or rubber and are inserted into the nostril to maintain an open passageway. Breathings strips adhere to the outside of the nose to gently pull open the nasal passage.
- Oral appliance therapy. Custom-fit oral devices that fit similar to a sports mouth guard realign your jaw in such a way that eliminates blockage in the throat due to relaxed muscles or a collapsed tongue.
- Surgery. Advisable in the most severe cases, surgical intervention typically involves removal of some of the loose tissues from the patient’s throat.
If snoring is an issue that has been causing sleepless nights and other problems in your home, it’s time to look more deeply into the reasons behind it and begin searching for a lasting solution.