What is snoring?
Snoring is the sound of turbulence and soft tissue vibration in the back of the throat. The sound of snoring generally does not come from the nose. Rather, snoring sound occurs in the back of the airway. The parts involved include the uvula, tongue, lateral pharyngeal walls, and the soft palate
During sleep, the muscles in the back of the throat relax. This is more pronounced during REM sleep, or dream sleep, when muscles are most relaxed. As the airway diameter decrease, air turbulence increases. The soft tissues in the back of the throat vibrate. The vibration of the uvula, soft palate, and tongue is what causes the snore sound. Learn more about what causes snoring.
This a worldwide finding. Almost half of adults snore. Many adults are not aware that they snore because it happens during sleep, during which awareness is limited. Children also snore. Many other species of animals are known to snore. Bulldogs are infamous for being loud sleepers. Do you snore? There is a snoring app for that.
The likelihood of being a snorer increases as we get older. Most men over age 50 snore. Aѕ people аgе, it bесоmеѕ mоrе lіkеlу. Hоwеvеr, this ѕlеер rеlаtеd finding іѕ nоt rеѕtrісtеd tо men. As menopause approaches, women and men snore at similar rates. Why do people snore?
Most snorers do not have a complaint that directly relates to the snore. However, snoring can have a significant impact on sleep and health. Unfortunately, whеn snore sounds occurs, іt arouses thе brаіn of еvеrуоnе who саn hear it, including thе snorer.
What risk factors increase snoring?
- Age – As we get older, we are more likely to snore.
- Sex – Men are more likely to snore than women.
- Weight – There is strong correlation between weight and snore sounds.
- Body/Neck position – Snores occurs more often, or louder when sleeping on the back position. For some people, sleeping on one’s side solves the problem (temporarily).
- Alcohol – Alcohol causes the muscles in the back of the throat to be more relaxed.
Snoring occurs during sleep when the airways have been obstructed. It is a hoarse, harsh sound that is vibratory in nature. Frequently, snoring can mean there is a serious health concern present. Additionally, it can be a nuisance to a bedfellow.
Loud and persistent snoring is often indicative of sleep apnea, a condition in which the airways become blocked and interrupt an individual’s sleep cycles.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even be a contributing factor to obesity. Additionally, the harsh sound of snoring can interrupt sleeping patterns and lead to excessive fatigue and loss of focus. This can be extremely problematic in a workplace, while driving, or while operating heavy machinery.
A minimal amount of snore sounds are considered harmless and even normal, especially during times of illness when the airways are often swollen and stuffy. When it is present, it indicates that the throat muscles are relaxed and the airways have become narrower. It is easy for this narrowing to be too constrictive, however, so the individual is forced to compensate with more forceful breathing, which, in turn, creates the rattling sound in the surrounding tissues.
About half of all adults in the US snore at least occasionally.
Snoring can be caused by a variety of conditions, including, but not limited to:
- Enlarged tongue, tonsils, or uvula
- Deviated septum
- Elongated soft palate
- Nasal polyps
- Large neck
- Small jawbone
- Frequent allergic reactions (seasonal or environmental)
Snore sounds are the most common symptom with sleep apnea.
Other sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Memory problems
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Inability to cope with stress, or easy irritability
- Frequent headaches, especially when waking in the morning
The first form of treatment is generally as simple as making some lifestyle changes, i.e., abstinence from alcohol, weight loss, treatment of nasal congestion, and sleep position changes. If snores are caused by obstructive sleep apnea, then there are other treatment options available such as the use of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), oral appliances, and surgery (laser or traditional) when all other treatments fail.
The most popular treatments for snoring in sleep apnea is the use of a CPAP machine or oral appliance in conjunction with weight loss.
A CPAP machine involves placing a mask over the mouth and nose, which will pressurize oxygen during sleep. The mask is connected to a pump, which provides the oxygen and keeps the airways open. Unfortunately, while it is greatly beneficial for those whose snores are extreme, many find the noise and pressure of the mask difficult to tolerate. In that case, physicians will frequently turn to oral appliances like dental mouthpieces, which advance the jaw position, tongue, and soft palate in order to help keep the airways open.
Snoring is a very common finding during sleep. With it occurring in almost half of the population, if you are not the one snoring, then certainly your friend is.
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