Snoring is the sound of OBSTRUCTIVE or INTERRUPTED breathing. Snoring may be benign at times, however it may also represent a very serious problem which you may not know about.
Snoring may progress into a medical condition called OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA).
There are several reasons that snoring occurs. Large structures in the throat can add to the snoring when the muscles relax during sleep and partially obstruct air flow. As air passes through these obstructions, the throat structures vibrate causing the sound we know as snoring. Excess fat in the neck area, large tonsils, a long soft palate and uvula all contribute to soft tissue narrowing.
The sound of snoring comes from the uvula, the back of the tongue and other soft tissues in the throat area flapping as the air passes over them as you breath during sleep.
Unfortunately the lack of breathing, because of the blockage of air by the structures in the back of the throat, decreases air flow to the lungs. This causes a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Approximately 30% to 50% of all adults snore on a regular basis. Men tend to snore more than women (About 2: 1 ratio). Snoring increased with age and increasing weight. If you have allergies, asthma, colds and or sinus infections, you increases the risk of snoring.
Smoking, drinking alcohol before you go to sleep, being overweight and overeating can make the problem worse. Muscle relaxers, such as Ambien, as well as sleeping on your back can cause snoring.
How do you Manage Snoring
There are many contributory factors to snoring and you may try to do some of the following:
- Stop smoking
- Lose weight
- Raise the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches
- Try to avoid sleeping on your back. Place pillows against your back when you are on your side.
- Avoid muscle relaxants (ie. Ambien)
- Do not drink alcohol within 3 hours of falling asleep.
- Do not eat heavy meals within 3 hours of your bedtime.
- Try to sleep on your side.
- Start an exercise program with the goal to lose weight and improve your physical condition.
- Always ask your bed partner if you snore or hold your breath while sleeping.
- Ask your dentist about Oral Appliances to help you stop snoring and manage Sleep Apnea.
If you have severe breathing problems and you stop breathing you may have to get checked by a Sleep Physician and get a CPAP machine, have surgery or have a dentist make you an Oral Appliance (OA).
Problems with Snoring
"Breathing during sleep is somewhat like a car idling at a stoplight. Ideally an automobile's engine slows significantly but keeps running smoothly. If it eases up too much, the car may start to sputter a bit or even stop running altogether.
When you sleep, breathing slows, your muscles relax and your airway narrows slightly, but you continue to inhale and exhale steadily. If for some reason the airway narrows a little too much, you'll start to snore. If the airway narrows completely, breathing may cease altogether, forcing you to gasp for air and temporarily wake up.
Snoring that occurs when the airway is slightly borrowed but still open is referred to as simple, or primary, snoring. While not life threatening, simple snoring is still worth treating since it can still disrupt your partner's sleep.
Complete, or near complete blockage of the airway during sleep is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is a very serious disorder with potentially serious effects on a person's health and quality of life. "
(Source: The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night's Sleep)
If your spouse is constantly suffering from your snoring, you both may suffer from:
- High blood pressure
- Daily sleepiness
- Snoring can lead to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
- Decreased Cognitive ability
- 90% of people who snore and have Sleep Apnea are not aware of it