Snoring is often lightheartedly joked about in social situations. Many people will find humor in having a college roommate or neighbor that they can hear snoring from across the hall. However, it can be a serious medical issue that should be addressed. Some people do not understand what snoring can mean. It’s more than a punchline at a party and can be a symptom of a sleep disorder or an actual sleep disorder.
Snoring is more common among men, but it can occur in women as well. It can impact large amounts of people throughout the course of their lifetime. It affects 37 million people on an annual basis. Often, the habit of snoring runs in families. However, it doesn’t mean it’s something that they need to learn how to live with.
What is snoring?
Snoring itself is a loud sound that happens while an individual is sleeping. It’s how the air flows and reverberates through the back of the throat. When the air passes by, it causes the throat to vibrate.
What are the causes?
Most everyone snores at some point or another, whether it’s a cold or a more chronic disorder. However, many who are aging are more likely to snore as the throat muscles become weaker. The throat narrows similar to how an individual ages, which can lead to airway restriction and snoring.
Many are mistakenly under the impression that alcohol makes you sleep better. However, this is not true as it interferes with getting quality rest. It is a stimulant but relaxes the muscles in the throat to cause snoring.
It really is all about the back of the throat. An obese person has more fat in general and this means that they also have more fatty tissue around their throat and neck. Any time the airway is constricted, it will increase a person’s likelihood of snoring.
If you’ve ever watched someone fall asleep on the couch, you may have heard them snore as their head falls backward or to the side while they are sitting up. Sleeping positions can have a significant impact on whether a person will snore or not.
You may not always know if you are a snorer and your partner may be too heavy of a sleeper to notice if you snore. These are some other ways you may know that you snore without hearing it for yourself.
- Daytime sleepiness
- Weight gain
- Abrupt awakening
- Morning headaches
- Poor memory
How do you know if it’s a more serious sleep condition?
Snoring is a sleep disorder. It will impede your ability to get the amount of sleep your body requires to function at maximum productivity. Snoring alone isn’t necessarily a serious condition, but it can lead to more serious sleep disorders while at the same time be a symptom of them.
If an individual is finding themselves repeatedly1 unrested, daytime fatigue, depression and a feeling of choking while sleeping, they may have a serious sleep condition called obstructive sleep apnea. This can have serious life-threatening consequences if not addressed. One of the symptoms of OSA is snoring. While snoring doesn’t mean you have OSA, it can potentially indicate that you have sleep apnea in that sleep apnea occurs when the airway is compromised, manifesting as snoring.
If you snore, you may want to talk to your doctor about having a sleep test conducted to find out if you snore and why. This is done with a Polysomnography Test. It records snoring and how it impacts sleep.
Depending on the results of the study, the sleep specialists will conclude your sleep test and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then work with you on treatment options depending on your diagnosis.
Some of these treatments include:
- Surgery: This is an extreme solution, but if the shape of your throat or mouth is causing you to snore, surgery will make a slight adjustment for you to sleep better.
- Assistive Devices: Oral appliances that are like a retainer can be worn at night to eliminate or alleviate snoring. It helps to open the airway. Some even have a minty flavor!
- Lifestyle Changes: Making healthy lifestyle changes may help you to reduce snoring. This means reducing alcohol intake, having a well-balanced diet and a consistent exercise regimen.
If they find you have a sleep disorder like OSA, they will prescribe different treatment options like a CPAP machine. Either way, it’s essential that you participate in a sleep study in order to find out the cause of your restless night and excessive daytime tiredness.
Snoring can get on all of our nerves but it is not something to take lightly. If you or someone you know has had trouble with snoring and wants help, contact us today!
- Snoring: An Annoyance or a Serious Health Problem (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)? Indian J Community Med. 2015 Apr-Jun; 40(2): 143–144.