It can have serious health ramifications more than just a noisy nuisance
Snoring occurs when your breathing is partially obstructed in some way while you’re sleeping. More than just a noisy nuisance, snoring may indicate a serious health condition. It occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds.
Habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea creates several problems, including interruptions of breathing (lasting from a few seconds to minutes) during sleep caused by partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway, frequent waking from sleep, even though you may not realize it. Waking up so many times a night interferes with the normal pattern of sleep causing more time to be spent in light sleep than in more restorative, deeper sleep. Prolonged suffering from obstructive sleep apnea often results in hypertension and may cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke. It also causes poor night’s sleep that leads to drowsiness during the day and can interfere with your quality of life and increase the risk of car accidents.
What are the underlying causes of snoring? what diseases does it cause?
Sinus Infections (Sinusitis)
The sinuses are small air pockets located behind your forehead, nose, cheekbones, and eyes. The sinuses produce mucus, which is a jelly-like liquid that protects the body by trapping germs. Sometimes, bacteria or allergens can cause too much mucus to form, which blocks the openings of your sinuses. Excess mucus is common if you have a cold or allergies. This mucus buildup can encourage bacteria and germs to grow in your sinus cavity, leading to a bacterial or viral infection. Most sinus infections are viral, and go away in a week or two without treatment. Swollen or blocked turbinates in the nose can cause difficulty breathing, which in turn can also cause snoring and various recurring sinus problems such as those mentioned above, plus running noses and the like. The effect while sleeping can be similar to mild sleep apnea. Breathing is obstructed, and as a result, you often awake in the morning un-rested and feel dog tired all day.
Nasal obstruction is one of the main complaints in viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, and of course, there are other accompanying symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, cough and sore throat. But the stuffy nose increases the difficulty of breathing and causes narrowing of the throat, leading to snoring.
Obstructed nasal airways can cause snoring. Some people snore only during allergy seasons or when they have a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum – a structural change in the wall that separates one nostril from the other – or nasal polyps can also cause obstruction. Throat and tongue muscles can be too relaxed, which allows them to collapse and fall back into the airway. This can result from a deep sleep, alcohol consumption, or use of some sleeping pills. Normal aging causes further relaxation of these muscles. A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. When these structures vibrate and bump against one another the airway becomes obstructed, causing snoring.
Being overweight can exacerbate snoring because one of the causes of the turbulence in the throat is the narrowing of the airway due to neck fat. Extra fat deposited around the neck and throat can cause the surrounding tissues to sag, which stops air flowing smoothly through and causes vibration. This is more of a problem for men, who are more likely to store extra fat around the neck. Losing weight can help alleviate the problem by reducing fat in the neck and helping to open the airway.
Smoking can dry out your throat very quickly. This isn’t a major cause of snoring, but it can contribute to it. The second way smoking can cause snoring is by direct irritation. When you smoke, the smoke itself irritates a number of things in your mouth and throat. These include mucous membranes and the bronchial tubes among other things.
Importance of determining the type of snoring
Nasal snoring is the one caused by partially blocked nasal passages, which forces more air through the mouth. This forced air actually then causes the airway to collapse as it cannot handle the pressure. Vibration will then occur, as previously explained, and the snoring sound will be made. Tongue-based snoring is caused by the tongue blocking air from reaching your lungs. When you sleep the soft tissues and muscles in your throat relaxes, and with tongue-based snorers it relaxes so much that it actually falls back in the throat, blocking airflow. The tongue is therefore in the wrong position. Most snorers, roughly up to 50%, are tongue based snorers, with men mostly falling in this category. People with excessive weight around their neck area are also prone to be tongue based snorers, because of the excess fatty tissue around the base of the tongue.
Mouth snoring is caused when the soft tissues of the soft palate such as the uvula vibrate against each other, also called palatal snoring. This type of snoring is mostly found in people that tend to breathe through their mouths when they sleep. It also happens that many people breathe through their mouths at night, because their noses are blocked. So there might be other underlining nasal problems which are merely becoming the mouth’s ‘problem’. Mouth snorers are also prone to infections because the air that travels to the lungs has not passed through the natural filter of the nasal passages.
To treat your condition, your doctor likely will first recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, treating nasal decongestion, avoiding sleep deprivation and avoiding sleeping on your back. Losing even a little bit of weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease, or even stop, snoring. Smoking irritates the membranes in the nose and throat which can block the airways and cause snoring. While quitting is easier said than done, it can bring quick snoring relief. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing. Be careful what you eat before bed as research shows that eating large meals or consuming certain foods right before bedtime can make snoring worse. Exercise, in general, can reduce snoring, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss. That’s because toning various muscles in your body leads to toning the muscles in your throat, which in turn can lead to less snoring. There are also specific exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in your throat.