Some would describe it to sound like a wild boar. You can poke at the boar until the sound stops, but it’s probably going to come right back. It’s loud and obnoxious, and sometimes just keeps repeating, keeping you up at night. If you are human, chances are that you know someone who snores or you may snore yourself. If you can relate, the good news is you do not have to live your life full of irritating, sleepless nights. You just have to know what is causing the snoring, and learn how to fix it
Snoring is caused when air that flows through the nose and mouth is partially obstructed. Normally when breathing, air moves quietly in and out through the nose and mouth, with nothing blocking its path. For people that snore, flowing air becomes blocked by tissues. These tissues vibrate, creating the aggravating sound. It is common, and although not always serious, it can impair sleep quality for the person snoring and anyone else around.
Obesity is the number one cause. When we add on too many extra pounds, fat around the neck puts pressure on the airway. Extra fat isn’t just on the outside of the body either. It is also hidden on the inside, including the airway. These two reasons alone cause constriction, but on top of that, the tongue falls back into the throat when lying flat. This also blocks air flow. Then when we breathe, airflow is obstructed by all of this extra tissue in its path. The tissue vibrates when air tries to move through, and this causes the snoring sound.
Allergies are also a common cause of snoring. Increased nasal congestion obstructs the flow of air through the nose. Allergy sufferers that take antihistamines may not be free from snoring either because antihistamines are another cause. They relax the tongue, throat, and muscles in the back of your mouth, blocking the path of air flow.
Alcohol and sleeping pills also can cause relaxation of these muscles, causing the airway to be obstructed.
In some cases, anatomy may be to blame. Examples of this are enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a deviated septum. A broken nose can also be a cause.
Snoring is not always serious, but sometimes it may be a sign of a condition called sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, there is an obstruction causing long pauses in breathing for a few seconds or even minutes. These pauses in breathing cause lack of oxygen in the body and may lead to more serious health conditions. Loud, frequent snoring is a sign, along with feeling fatigued during the day. Many times the person with sleep apnea doesn’t even know he has a problem; it is discovered by his partner. If you think you or your partner may have sleep apnea, click here to take a free one minute online assessment to gauge your risk. It is diagnosed with a sleep study, which monitors breathing impairment while you sleep. Sleep apnea can be treated with a CPAP machine, weight loss, or surgery to fix what is blocking the airway.
To stop snoring, the cause of airway obstruction must be treated. If you are overweight, the best thing you can do is lose the extra weight. Until then, avoid sleeping on your back, or prop yourself up on a pillow to avoid obstruction. If you have allergies, avoid antihistamines before bed, or try just a nasal decongestant. It is also best to avoid alcohol, at least before bedtime and avoid sleeping pills altogether.
If your anatomy is the issue, check with your doctor to see what you can do. Surgery is sometimes offered as a last resort when all else fails. Do you snore? Find out from a snoring app.
No matter what the cause for snoring, it can be treated. If you think your snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, contact your doctor. Whether the problem is serious or not, it is best to treat it and improve your quality of sleep. Even if you didn’t realize you do it until someone told you, treat it. Your partner will thank you for it.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.