If you or your sleep partner snore, you’re in the majority.
Snoring, according to the National Sleep Foundation, affects approximately 90 million Americans. In many cases, it disrupts sleep for not only the sufferer but also for anyone who sleeps within hearing distance.
When breathing is unobstructed, air flows easily and virtually soundlessly through the open airway at the back of the throat.
As we age, factors such as gravity and extra weight can cause our airways to narrow during sleep. When breath is forced through a narrowed airway, it speeds up causing the tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth to vibrate against the back of throat. The result is the harsh sound of snoring that may get louder as time goes on.
Snoring has been linked to daytime sleepiness and many other health related problems including increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. In addition, snoring is often an indication of a bigger health problem: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
We all recognize that snoring can be the “blocked nose” kind of snoring or the “back of the mouth, really noisy” kind of snoring. While it is important to note that any kind of snoring that disrupts sleep should not be ignored, the type of snoring that is caused by congestion from colds, allergies or nasal irritations, is generally intermittent and stops once the cold or irritation is cleared.
More persistent snoring gets louder over a period of time and comes from a change in physical structure. It happens because as air passages narrow, pressure increases and the vibration and noise follow.
The primary causes of narrowing of the air passage are:
- Larger soft tissue size - the tongue and soft palate gain weight with the rest of the body and larger soft tissue crowds the airway.
- Increased relaxation of the soft tissues - a natural occurrence in aging, soft tissues relax into the airway when a snorer sleeps on his/her back.
Sleep is considered to be one of the top essentials to basic health along with air, water and food. Research on sleep deprivation has shown that immune systems malfunction and the risk of other diseases increase dramatically when sufficient sleep is denied. Even routine coordination is impaired, causing increases in work accidents, motor vehicle accidents and general functionality.
Possible Solutions/Treatment Options
A few solutions can minimize or eliminate snoring either alone or in combination with treatment for snoring.
- Change your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side limits the effect of gravity and can reduce or eliminate snoring.
- Lose weight. A healthy body weight reflects inside as well as outside and can help open airways.
- Treat the cause of nasal congestion. Get help for your allergies, colds or other causes of congestion. Note: Over the counter nasal sprays are not intended for long-term use and should not be considered a permanent option.
- Avoid alcohol or sleeping pills within four hours of bedtime. These substances will cause relaxation of the soft tissues and muscles in the airway and will make sleep apnea or snoring worse.
In normal breathing air flows smoothly into the nose and mouth, through the airway and into the lungs.
Snoring can occur when the tongue relaxes into the throat. This narrows
your airway, speeds up the flow of air, causes tissue to vibrate and creates snoring noises.
Snoring can be an indication of apnea. When an apnea event occurs, the tongue and soft palate relax into the airway, completely closing off the flow of air and causing your body to jolt itself awake.
Michigan Center for
Dental Sleep Medicine
8506 North Canton Center Rd.
Canton, MI 48187