Why Do People Snore?
For ages, it didn’t seem like anything serious. Instead, it was frequently used as a source of comedy in movies and TV shows.
Snoring used to be a laughing matter, but now it is something much more sinister. In your situation, snoring may be no big deal, or it could be a serious warning sign of dangerous conditions, which pose a significant risk to your physical, mental, and social health.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is commonly known as the distinct hoarse or harsh sound made when someone is sleeping. The sound is caused when structures at the top of your airway relax and distort the ordinary flow of air, leading to these structures rubbing against each other and vibrating in a particular way to create the sound.
Almost everyone will snore at some point in their lives. Snoring might be more often associated with men, but women, especially those who are pregnant or are postmenopause, will also snore at high rates.
Snoring is a complex condition that may be caused by a number of situations and conditions including:
- The structures of your mouth. The roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue, and throat all influence your tendencies to snore. If your soft palate is low and thick or if your uvula is long, your snoring will be more likely and possibly more intense.
- Nasal issues. Frequent colds with nasal congestion or a deviated septum caused by the divider between your nostrils being crooked will increase your snoring.
- Sleep deprivation. When you don’t get adequate sleep, your throat may relax too much when you finally fall asleep, resulting in more snoring.
- Sleep position. The way you sleep will greatly impact your snoring. Sleeping on your back allows gravity to pull your throat down and block the normal air flow.
- Alcohol use. Many people – unwisely – use alcohol as a sleep aid. This practice can make snoring worse because alcohol further relaxes the structures of your mouth and lowers your ability to prevent snoring.
As mentioned, everyone will snore at times, but the people most likely to suffer from snoring are overweight men who have narrow airways, nasal problems, and drink too much alcohol.
Snoring and Your Social Health
Even mild snoring can be problematic. If your partner snores, their behavior will negatively impact the quality and quantity of your sleep as they keep you up at night with the noisy conditions.
If you snore, your partner may become very annoyed with you during the night and wake you in an attempt to end the snoring. Their frustration may carry over to the daytime as they blame you for their sleepiness and irritability.
Whatever the case, snoring is enough to damage the happiness within an otherwise loving relationship severely. If snoring is a problem in your relationship, be sure to talk to your partner about your feelings and possible solutions to resolve the issue.
When Snoring Becomes Dangerous
Snoring may seem harmless, but the condition may lead to blocked breathing, and blocked breathing may result in very profound consequences including death. The risk factor here is a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Not everyone who snores will have OSA, but nearly everyone with OSA snores. People with sleep apnea will have other symptoms like:
- Stopped, slowed, or delayed breathing at night
- Feeling excessively sleepy during the day
- Poor, restless sleep
- Problems paying attention and focusing
- Consistent headaches in the morning
- Sore throats in the morning
- Choking or struggling for air at night
- Chest pain at night
- High blood pressure
With OSA, a person will snore loudly, stop or struggle to breathe, and then wake up with a sudden jolt. This reaction might not seem so serious, but when it occurs up to 300 times per night, the effects can be quite devastating.
Each time you struggle to breathe, OSA impacts your body in two unique ways:
- Your body’s oxygen level begins to decrease, which sparks a need for your heart to work harder to get oxygen where needed in your system.
- Your sleep cycle is disturbed, which lowers your ability to achieve steady, lasting rest and recovery.
Snoring and OSA Treatments
Simple snoring that has nothing to do with sleep apnea may not need to be treated at all, but if the condition is negatively impacting your physical, mental, and social health, your doctor may recommend an oral sleep appliance that looks like a mouth guard a football player might wear.
OSA treatments are a bit more in-depth and involve:
- A CPAP machine. By wearing a mask over your nose and mouth that produces a flow of pressure, your airway stays open. Different masks and machine configurations will have different names and acronyms but all work with the same process.
- Surgical procedures. There are several surgical options to manage the symptoms of OSA. Surgeries can:
- Remove soft tissue
- Inserting robs to produce stiffness of mouth structures
- Injecting substances to promote stiffness
- Using lasers and cauterizing tools to reshape and remove extra tissue
- Oral appliances like those used in snoring treatments
Be sure to consult with an expert to learn if your snoring is silly or very serious.