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Could there be more to your snore?

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 05 March 2021

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From quiet sniffs to loud grunts, every household has someone who snores. Snoring is the sound produced when the air flows past the relaxed tissues in the throat and nose, making them vibrate and make noise when breathing. Snoring is generally more common in men, older people, and in people who are overweight (BMI greater than or equal to 25).

Studies have shown that most people snore at some point in their life and this usually does not bear any risk. However, if it becomes frequent, it may indicate an underlying problem such as sleep apnea which requires proper medical care.

Types of snoring

  • Light snoring: This kind of snoring is not so loud and is occasional. It usually does not require any medical attention.
  • Primary snoring: This type occurs for more than three nights every week. If the snoring is accompanied by sleep disruption, it might require attention.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea associated snoring (OSA-associated snoring): In this kind, the snoring is accompanied by a sound of gasping or choking as the person experiences lack of breath. This kind of snoring requires immediate medical attention as it could result in serious health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke if left untreated.

What are the causes of snoring?

Snoring usually occurs when there is a physical obstruction to the air flowing through the mouth and the nose. Snoring can occur due to several reasons, some of which include:

  • Obstruction in the nasal passage due to a deviated nasal septum (the wall between the two nostrils) or nasal polyps (growths inside the nose).
  • A long uvula (a mass hanging at the back of the mouth) or long soft palate (roof of the mouth) can narrow down the opening between the nose and the throat, which can block the airway. When the person breathes, these structures vibrate and bump against each other, making a snoring sound. 
  • Weak muscles of the tongue can cause it to fall back into the throat when sleeping, resulting in snoring.
  • Excessive relaxation of the muscles of the throat can make them collapse, resulting in breathlessness and snoring. 
  • Excessive tissue in the throat blocking the airway.
  • Enlarged adenoids and tonsils.

Who is more likely to snore?

Almost anyone can experience it, but snoring can be more prevalent in some people due to specific reasons, which include:

  • Pregnancy (in later stages)
  • Obesity (or overweight)
  • Irregular shape of nasal bone
  • Large tongue (macroglossia)
  • Consumption of excess alcohol
  • Swelling of tonsils, adenoids, uvula or soft palate
  • Use of antihistamine (anti-allergy) medications
  • Congestion due to cold or allergies.

Can snoring be prevented?

By making simple lifestyle changes one can prevent and reduce snoring. These changes include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly
  • Avoiding the consumption of alcohol before going to bed
  • Maintaining a sleep schedule by going to sleep at the same time every night
  • Avoiding the use of sedatives, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before sleeping
  • Applying nasal strips to the bridge of the nose whenever the nose is blocked
  • Sleeping on the side rather than on the back
  • Elevating the head by 4 inches when sleeping, either with the help of an extra pillow or by tilting the bed.

Is there a treatment for snoring?

1. Non-surgical treatments

Snoring is usually harmless and can be relieved with the help of some simple devices. Non-surgical treatment methods for snoring include: 

  • A device to hold the tongue in place or a little forward so that it does not fall back towards the throat
  • A chin strap to hold the mouth in a closed position
  • An oral shield, worn in the mouth, to breathe through the nose
  • Strips that hold the nose (nasal passage) open
  • Sprays that help reduce swelling inside the nasal cavity, thereby clearing the breathing passage.

People with sleep apnea can be given a nasal mask that provides continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) through the nose to the throat to prevent collapsing of the airways. This device helps the person breathe better and sleep comfortably throughout the night.

2. Surgical treatments

Surgery may be required for people who do not respond well to non-surgical treatments or have an anatomical blockage in their breathing passage. The surgical treatments may involve:

  • Removal of tonsils (tonsillectomy) and adenoids (mass of soft tissue behind the nasal cavity). 
  • Procedures to remove tissues from the back of the throat (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty). 
  • Modification of the uvula and soft palate (somnoplasty).
  • Procedures to stimulate the hypoglossal nerve (the nerve that supplies to the muscles of the tongue).
  • Procedure to straighten the bone and cartilage that separates the space between two nostrils (septoplasty).

When to contact a doctor?

Not all cases of snoring are harmful but a doctor must be consulted if any of these signs are observed: 

  • Extremely loud and bothersome snoring
  • Snoring for more than three times a week 
  • Gasping, snorting or choking while snoring
  • Drowsiness during the day time
  • Inability to focus
  • Headache in the morning
  • Chest congestion
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Grinding of teeth at night (bruxism)
  • Urinating frequently during the night (nocturia).

Conclusion

Frequent snoring must not be ignored as it could possibly result in undesired consequences. Moreover, snoring is not only a problem for the affected person but for their partners too as the continuous noise may leave them sleep-deprived. By making some simple lifestyle changes such as losing extra weight, avoiding the use of alcohol before sleeping and adjusting sleeping positions, snoring issues can be tackled.

Disruptive snoring can be reduced with the help of medical devices and surgery. People experiencing frequent snoring along with breathing difficulty when sleeping must consult a doctor.

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