Snoring can cause a host of problems, as well as be a sign of more serious sleep problems. Snoring on its own can seriously disrupt a sleeping partner’s sleep patterns, resulting in a tired loved one and a possibly strained relationship.1 Many of the reasons for snoring are also sleep apnea symptoms, and sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences.
Snoring is the sound created when the soft tissues in your upper airways partially restrict the flow of air. You can test this by making a snoring noise while awake. You will have to partially block the flow of air with the back of your throat to make a convincing snoring noise.
The reason this happens to a snorer while they are sleeping is because their muscles relax enough to cause parts of their mouth or throat to droop. If these soft tissues droop into the path of moving air, the result can be snoring.
If you’ve ever been in the same room as someone who is snoring, you may have heard the snoring suddenly stop, then start again. One reason for this is that the snorer was also suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when soft tissues completely block air flow, and the sleeper temporarily stops breathing. While there is very little risk of suffocating due to sleep apnea, there is a cascade of health
The immediate reason for snoring is the partial obstruction of the airways, but there are risk factors that increase the chances of this happening. Congenital factors, like having a naturally narrow airway or a deviated septum, can increase the chances of snoring. Starting with a narrower airway makes it more likely that any relaxation of soft tissues will lead to snoring. Anatomically, men are naturally more prone to snoring than women. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as being overweight or drinking alcohol can be reasons for snoring.
It is important to remember that the reasons for snoring are also sleep apnea causes. Obstructive sleep apnea is a more serious condition than snoring, as it can lead to higher blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. This is because when you stop breathing, or experience an apnea, your body attempts to respond to the drop in oxygen levels by increasing your blood pressure.
Unfortunately, obstructive sleep apnea can create a vicious cycle by leading to weight gain, which is of course a risk factor for snoring and sleep apnea. This is why snoring shouldn’t be simply written off as a mere nuisance. Addressing the reasons for snoring early could potentially prevent the more serious effects of sleep apnea.
There are a few different types of snoring remedies that make use of a physical appliance or device. The goal of these devices is to prevent the airway from being obstructed. One method uses a mouth guard that draws the lower jaw forward, creating more space in the back of the throat. Sometimes called a snore guard, it involves two pieces of plastic that are molded to fit the teeth. Another method uses slightly pressurized air to hold the airways open. CPAP or BiPAP machines involve a more involved arrangement that includes a face mask or mouthpiece connected to a small air pump. Using a CPAP for snoring has been shown to be very effective at reducing snoring.
There are both short-term and long-term reasons for snoring. Some short-term snoring causes are alcohol use or nasal congestion. Drinking can cause your throat muscles to relax, which can lead to the partial airway obstruction that causes snoring. Nasal congestion increases the amount of air that must travel through your mouth. If the back of your mouth is too narrow to accommodate the increased airflow, the result might be snoring.
If you sleep alone, and your snoring doesn’t lead to obstructive sleep apnea, then snoring all night may not be inherently bad for you. However, as snoring is one of the key signs of sleep apnea, if you snore the entire time you are asleep, you might want to talk to a doctor about other sleep apnea risk factors.
Maybe. Research has found that the partner of a snorer suffers from disruptions in their sleep, and the lack of sleep effects alone could push a relationship to the brink.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.