What is Snoring?
Snoring is defined as any ‘turbulent’ airflow between the nose and the upper throat. The snorting or grunting noise heard indicates that there is a blockage somewhere in the air passages.
The majority of people snore on occasion, but if snoring happens frequently it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep and that of others. Snoring can lead to sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, irritability and increased health problems.
What causes snoring?
Snoring occurs when the air is unable to move freely through your nose and mouth during sleep. This is usually caused by the narrowing of your airway, often as a result of poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat. It is when the air flowing through your nose and mouth is being physically obstructed that your smooth breathing is affected and you create the sound of snoring.
Your air flow can be obstructed by a variety of factors, including:
- Obstructed nasal airways: Some people may only snore during allergy seasons or when suffering from a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum, which is a structural change in the wall that separates one nostril from the other, or nasal polyps can also cause obstruction.
- Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: If the tongue and throat muscles are too relaxed, they will collapse and fall back into the airway. This can happen as a result of deep sleep, alcohol consumption and some sleeping pills.
- Bulky throat tissue: Bulky throat tissue is often a result of being overweight. Children with large tonsils and adenoids are also often prone to snoring.
- Long soft palate and/or uvula: A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the back of your mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. Snoring occurs when these structures vibrate and bump against one another, resulting in the airway becoming obstructed.
What are the health risks associated with snoring?
Habitual snorers can be at risk of serious health problems, including sleep apnoea, which can create many problems including:
- Heart Disease
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- A headache
- Nocturia (urination at night)
- Less Sexual Satisfaction
- Fetal Complications
- Excess Weight
Can snoring be cured?
Everyone snores for different reasons, so before you can find a cure, you must first identify what makes you snore.
It’s recommended that you note the different ways you sleep and snore. Sleep positions reveal a lot, and figuring out how you snore can reveal why you snore. Once you have identified the cause of your snoring, you can begin to find a cure.
- Closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with your tongue.
- Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
- Snoring when sleeping on your back is probably mild snoring—improved sleep habits and lifestyle changes may be effective cures.
- Snoring in all sleep positions can mean your snoring is more severe and may require a more comprehensive treatment.
There are a number of proven techniques that can help you eliminate snoring, but it may require some patience, lifestyle changes and some trial and error until you find a remedy that works for you.
How to stop snoring naturally?
There are lifestyle changes that can help you combat snoring:
- Sleep on your side
Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.
- Lose weight
Losing weight can decrease or even stop snoring as you are reducing the fatty tissue in the back of your throat.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime
Alcohol relaxes muscles in the throat and interferes with breathing.
- Exercise more
Exercise leads to toning your throat muscles, therefore resulting in snoring less.
- Quit smoking
Smoking irritates the membranes in the nose and throat, causing airways to be blocked.
- Establish regular sleep patterns
Creating a bedtime ritual can help you sleep better and often minimize snoring.
Bedtime remedies to help you stop snoring
- Clear nasal passages
Having a blocked nose before bedtime makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. To help you breathe more easily while asleep, try nasal decongestants or nasal strips.
- Use a humidifier to keep the air in your bedroom moist
Dry air can irritate the membranes in your nose and throat, causing them to swell and become congested.
- Elevate your head
By elevating your head four inches it may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed
This will allow your body to go into a wind-down mode and release the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
When should you visit your GP?
If the self-help solutions have been unsuccessful, there are a number of medical cures and treatments that could benefit you. New advances in the treatment of snoring, means that the devices are becoming more and more effective and comfortable.
If you need professional advice it is highly recommended that you consult your GP or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor). If you choose to try a dental appliance for your snoring, you will need to see a dentist specialising in these devices.
Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a more serious problem – read this article to find out when you should visit your GP.