Snoring is a quite common occurrence and could happen to otherwise normal and very healthy individuals. If you have ever asked: why do people snore? You are certainly not alone.
As a matter of fact, 45% of adults snore occasionally and men are twice more likely to snore than women.
A snore is a sound produced during the process of breathing, especially when taking in air while sleeping. It is heard as a hoarse sound when the airway is narrow or partially closed.
Snoring in itself is not a disease, but could be a symptom of a medical condition. It could occur in varying degrees and could be very bothersome to loved ones around. In some serious cases, it could even cause strains in relationships.
What are the symptoms of snoring?
Although snoring can be easily recognized by the sounds made, some symptoms which could accompany the condition include:
- The classic hoarse noise during sleep
- Chest aches while sleeping
- Headaches on waking up
- Brief cessation of breathing during sleep
- Gasping in the middle of sleep
- Bad breath (snoring can cause bad breath)
- Sore throat
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Difficulty with concentrating
Why do people snore?
There are a number of things that cause snoring, and they include the following:
- Physiological/Anatomical: Normally during sleep, the neck muscles relax. In some people, the muscles relax much more, causing the airway to become narrow. When air passes through the narrow opening, it causes some vibrations which are heard as a snore.
- Genetics: If a person has excess soft tissue in the palate and throat, or has a long uvula, it could cause the airway to become narrow, hence causes snoring.
- Obesity and pregnancy: Pregnant women and people who are obese tend to have excess or thick soft tissue at the back of their throat. This narrows the airway.
- Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation could cause the muscles of the throat become more relaxed, causing one to snore.
- Sleep position: How you sleep affects how much you snore. It has been shown that snoring tends to be more frequent and louder when one sleeps in a supine position, i.e. sleep on the back.
- Allergies, cold or flu: These basically obstruct the airway, causing it to be narrow, hence, could cause snoring.
- Smoking, alcohol and certain medications: Alcohol, tobacco and some medications tend to relax the muscles, thereby increasing the chances of snoring.
- Aging: The older one gets, the more relaxed muscles may become, coupled with the long term effects of smoking in older people.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is a condition where breathing completely or partially stops during sleep. It happens when the tissues in the throat block the airway, thereby preventing breathing. People with sleep apnea snore loudly and may have interrupted sleep where they wake up at intervals with a gasping sound or loud snort. The interruptions in sleep is a way the brain tells the body to wake up and get the air it needs.
Read also: Why do we dream? And what do dreams mean?
How to stop snoring
Snoring can be minimized by some lifestyle changes and self-help strategies or treated medically.
7 useful self-help tips to stop snoring:
- Lifestyle changes: These include shedding any extra weight, paying close attention to what you eat and how much you eat just before bedtime, avoiding alcohol and quit smoking. If you are on sleeping pills, you may want to have a discussion with your doctor because sleeping pills can make you snore. As part of lifestyle changes, you may want to include some form of exercise to your daily life. You could also do some throat exercise to help tone the throat muscles.
- Watch your sleeping position: There is a higher tendency to snore when you lie on your back. You would want to change your sleeping position to your side. Placing a long pillow beside you can help you maintain your sleep position on your side.
- Get a comfortable neck position: Be sure to use a pillow that does not put stress on the neck. There are some pillows specially made to help minimize snoring.
- Treat any nasal congestion by using nasal decongestants or nasal strips.
- Have a clean environment: Be sure to keep the room free of dust and allergens as these could trigger snoring.
- Humidify the air: Keep the air moist by using a humidifier or keeping an open bowl of water in the room, Dry air can irritate the nasal membranes and make them become inflamed or swollen, making you more likely to snore.
- Use a dental device/mouth appliance: Custom made anti-snoring mouth devices can help you maintain an open airway during sleep by setting the jaw and tongue forward.
Medical treatments for snoring include:
- Surgical procedures such as Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), Adenoidectomy, Tonsillectomy, and Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) can be done to remove excess tissue in the throat, correct anomalies and increase the size of the airway.
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) used to shorten and reshape the uvula and soft palate, as well as Somnoplasty using radio-frequency heat treatment. This helps to stop or reduce the vibrations that cause snoring.
- Palatal implants inserted into the soft palate to prevent it from collapsing during sleep. A collapse of the soft palate could cause a snore.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a method where a machine delivers pressurized air through a face mask or nose mask. This pressurized air helps the airway to stay open while sleeping. It is mostly used for people with continuous obstructive sleep apnea. The air pressure is adjusted for each person based on results from sleep assessment.
If you snore often, you can try any of these tips above or see a doctor to help you minimize snoring episodes.