Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when your breathing is obstructed in some way while you’re sleeping. Sometimes snoring may indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner.
As many as half of adults snore at least occasionally. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring.
In addition, medical devices and surgery are available that may reduce disruptive snoring. However, these aren’t suitable or necessary for everyone who snores.
Depending on the cause of your snoring, in addition to the noise caused by snoring, you may also experience:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat
- Restless sleep
- Gasping or chocking at night
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
- Your snoring is so loud it’s disrupting your partner’s sleep
- You wake up chocking or gasping
These may indicate your snoring is caused by a more serious condition such as obstructive sleep apnea.
If your child snores, ask your pediatrician about it. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea too. But, nose and throat problems-such as enlarged tonsils-and obesity often underlie habitual snoring in children. Treating these conditions could help your child sleep better.
There are a variety of factors that can lead to snoring, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight.
When you doze off and progress from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they vibrate and may partially obstruct your airway. And, the more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This causes tissue vibration to increase, which makes your snoring grows louder.
The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:
- Your mouth anatomy. Having a low, thick soft palate or enlarged tonsils or tissues in the back of your throat (adenoids) can narrow your airway. Likewise, if the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula) is elongated, airflow can be obstructed and vibration increased.
- Being overweight. Extra weight can build up in your throat and contribute to narrowing of your airway.
- Alcohol consumption. Snoring can also be brought on by consuming too much alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol relaxes throat muscles and decreases your natural defenses against airway obstruction.
- Nasal problems. Chronic nasal congestion or a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum) may contribute to your snoring.
- Sleep apnea. Snoring may also be associated with obstructive sleep apnea. In this serious condition, your throat tissues obstruct your airway, preventing you from breathing. Sleep apnea is often characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops or nearly stops. Sometimes, complete obstruction doesn’t occur, but rather, while still snoring, the airway becomes so small that the airflow is inadequate for your needs. Eventually, the lack of oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide signal you to wake up, forcing your airway open with a loud snort or gasping sound. This pattern may be repeated many times during the night. To be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, these periods when breathing slows or stops must occur at least five times an hour.
We are likely to first recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime and changing sleeping positions. If lifestyle changes don’t eliminate snoring there are several treatments for snoring. We can fabricate a form-fitting dental mouthpiece that helps advance the position of your tongue and soft palate to keep your air passage open. This only involves an initial impression and within a short period of time, we will receive your custom made appliance and fit it to your mouth. Excessive salivation, dry mouth, jaw pain and facial discomfort are possible side effects from wearing these devices.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
To prevent snoring, try these tips:
- If you’re overweight, lose weight. Being overweight is a common cause of snoring. Extra bulkiness in the throat narrows your airway.
- Sleep on your side. Lying on your back allows your tongue to fall backward into your throat, narrowing your airway and partially obstructing airflow. Try sleeping on your side. If you find that you always end up on your back in the middle of the night anyway, try sewing a tennis ball in the back of your pajama top. It also may help to raise the head of your bed up by about four inches.
- Nasal strips. Adhesive strips applied to your nose help many people increase the area of their nasal passage, enhancing their breathing. These strips aren’t effective for people with sleep apnea, however.
- Treat nasal congestion or obstruction. Having allergies or a deviated septum can limit airflow through your nose. This forces you to breathe through your mouth, increasing the likelihood of snoring. Don’t use an oral or spray decongestant for more than three days in a row for acute congestion unless directed to do so by your doctor, because long-term use of these medications can have a rebound effect and actually make your congestion worse. Ask your doctor about a prescription steroid spray if you have chronic congestion. To correct a deviated septum, you may need surgery.
- Limit or avoid alcohol and sedatives. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at least two hours before bedtime, and let your doctor know about your snoring before taking sedatives. Sedatives and hypnotics (sleeping pills) and alcohol depress your central nervous system, causing excessive relaxation of muscles, including the tissues in your throat. In addition, if you stop breathing due to obstructive sleep apnea, it may take longer for you to begin breathing again because alcohol and sedatives blunt the brain’s ability to arouse from sleep.
When to seek help
Call us for a snore appliance consultation if you experience, or if your partner observes, the following:
- Snoring loud enough to disturb your sleep or that of others
- Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving a vehicle
Many people don’t think of snoring as a sign of something potentially serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea. But be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring, especially snoring that’s punctuated by periods of silence. With obstructive sleep apnea, snoring typically is loudest when you sleep on your back, and it quiets when you turn on your side.
Ask your doctor about any sleep problem that leaves you chronically fatigued, sleepy and irritable. Excessive daytime drowsiness (hypersomnia) may be due to other disorders, such as narcolepsy.