Let’s be honest: Snoring can be funny. Someone is resting peacefully, quietly, then all of a sudden, the loudest, most obnoxious noise bursts forth from deep inside. Whether coming from men, women, or even children, the unexpected noise has caused more than a few giggles from those on the receiving end.
Snoring however is more than just a punchline. It can stop individuals from a restful night’s sleep, impeding their mental and physical performance. In some cases, it could signal an underlying medical problem.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 million American adults are affected by snoring, and almost 37 million are affected on a nightly basis. Snoring affects both genders, though it affects more men than women. It also becomes more pronounced with advanced age. 1
Our bodies move into a deep relaxed state while sleeping. A relaxing of the throat can cause our tongues to fall backwards. This may block our airway, narrowing the space and blocking the opening that allows us to continue unrestrained breathing during sleep. This disruption in air flow causes our throat to vibrate, which creates the snoring sound. The more narrow the airway, the louder the noise. 1
There are a number of factors that aggravate snoring. These include:
- Age: Our bodies change every year as we age. Our throats get narrower, and we lose some muscle tone in our throats.
- Sleeping posture: Sleeping on your back can push your tongue to the back of the airway. Lying on your side instead might help alleviate the problem.
- Overweight: Having more fatty tissue and less muscle tone around your neck can cause snoring.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol before bed can increase muscle relaxation, which can lead to more snoring.
- Medications: Just as with alcohol, taking muscle relaxants in the evening may cause greater periods of snoring as the throat will be in a more relaxed state.
- Smoking: Smoking can irritate the membranes around your throat and nose, which can cause more blockages of the airway. 2
If you or a loves one are plagued with excessive snoring, there are some simply lifestyle changes to be made that will help with the problem, such as increasing physical activity, managing a healthier weight, abstaining from smoking, and establishing good sleep routines. You can also try changing your sleeping posture, such as sleeping on your side or making adjustments with your pillow. Clearing your nasal passages before bed or using an anti-snoring mouthpiece may also bring some relief.
If lifestyle modifications don’t help, you may wish to speak with your doctor about use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to help keep your airway open and provide you with continuous flow of air. In the most severe of instances, you may have to consider surgery to remove or correct airway passage.
Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a medical issue. Some symptoms to look for include the following: 1
- Waking up at night feeling confused.
- Feeling overly tired during the day.
- Unexplained weight gain.
- Decrease in attention span and memory.
- Headaches in the morning,
If you or anyone you know are experiencing some of the symptoms above, consult a medical professional.
- National Sleep Foundation: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/other-sleep-disorders/snoring
- How to Stop Snoring: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-stop-snoring.htm