The Sleep Health Foundation Australia estimates that nearly 30%-40% of people living in Australia snore at night. Snoring is more common in men than women and usually worsens with age and obesity. There are no major risks with occasional snoring, however if you are a habitual snorer, it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea. Loud snoring (100 decibels or more) can even create some serious relationship problems for you. Thankfully with recent advancements, there are a number of effective solutions that can help you overcome snoring. Let’s have a look at what snoring is, why do some people snore and how snoring affects your body and mind.
What is Snoring?
Snoring is a common condition which refers to the noisy breathing during sleep. This loud sound can be described as rattling, vibrating or sawing and can be very unpleasant at times.
What Causes Snoring?
From an anatomical point of view, snoring is caused by the narrowing or partial blockage of the upper airway (the nose and throat) or when nasal breathing is obstructed. The narrowing or partial blockage makes the surrounding tissues vibrate as the air flows in and out; this produces the familiar snoring sound.
Why Do Some People Snore and Others Don’t?
So why do some people snore and others don’t? To find the answer to this common question, we will need to have a closer look at the typical characteristics of habitual night-time snorers:
- bulky nasal and throat tissues
- deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps
- poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat
- long soft palate and/or uvula
- gender (males are twice likely to snore)
- overweight or out of shape
- alcohol, smoking, and medications
- nasal and/or sinus problems
- poor sleep posture
- swollen adenoids or tonsils
Health Risks Associated With Snoring
Snoring is not considered an illness; in fact, it is a symptom. However, habitual snoring can be a sign of a serious health issue, one that if left unattended could have major health complications: Obstructive sleep apnoea is characterised by chronic snoring, frequent waking, labored breathing, and repetitive obstructed pauses in a person’s breathing during sleep. Sleep apnoea can prevent you from enjoying a good night’s sleep which is necessary to lead a healthy, energetic life. So, whether you are a habitual snorer or snore occasionally, it is worth consulting your doctor for advice and correct treatment. Here is a list of some of the serious health risks associated with obstructive sleep apnoea:
- irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
- cardiovascular diseases
- coronary artery diseases
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- mental health issues (depression, anxiety)
- headaches and migraines
- less sexual drive
- fetal complications (in women)
- poor quality of sleep
How To Stop Snoring?
There are plenty of options that can help put a stop to your snoring, however not every method is right for every person. The best treatment for your snoring will ultimately depend on the anatomy of your upper airway, the severity of your snoring, your body weight, your age, presence of sleep apnoea, alcohol consumption, medical history, and allergies.
To manage your snoring, you can start off with some lifestyle changes, such as:
- avoid consuming alcohol before going to bed
- lose weight
- treat nasal congestion
- quit smoking
- avoid sleeping on your back
- keep bedroom air moist
- avoid sleep deprivation
- daily exercise
If these simple lifestyle changes are not producing the desired results, you can invest in various anti-snoring products readily available in the market these days:
- anti-snoring nasal strips
- anti-snoring pillows
- nasal decongestants
- air purifiers
- nose vents
- nasal dilators
- mandibular advancement splint (MAS)
- breathing devices such as CPAP, EPAP, BPAP and ASV
Surgery is often the last option and is aimed at increasing the size of the airway, reshaping the nose, removing tonsils, adenoids or other excessive tissues, or implanting plastic rods into the soft palate. However, there is always a risk of infections and complications, therefore, surgery should only be used as the last resort.