When you breathe loudly while sleeping making unpleasant, harsh, vibrating, rattling or sawing noises, it’s called snoring. When you snore most nights, even when you are not ill or suffering for any allergy symptoms, it’s called chronic snoring. Sometimes, snoring can get so loud that it can reach up to 100 decibels and this loud snoring can even damage your hearing with continued exposure. According to the AAO (American Academy of Otolaryngology), around 45% of the American adults snore and snoring is more common in men than in women and snoring can become worse with age.
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So, the question is, is snoring bad for health? Well, the answer is yes. Apart from being quite bothersome to your partner sleeping in the room, snoring is embarrassing and also can pose serious threats to your health.
Consequences of Snoring
Frequent snoring results in you feeling:
- Sleepy, tired and fatigued during the day.
- Lowers the daytime performance and difficulty in concentrating on things.
- Increases the risk of drowsy driving and vehicle accidents.
- Conflict in the relationship with your spouse.
When chronic snoring affects your ability to breathe, this condition is known as obstructive sleep disorder or OSA which can affect your health directly and is associated with serious health conditions such as an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic syndrome and stroke.
Often people who snore are not aware of it. However, here are some signs that you may be snoring at night:
- Waking up in the morning with a headache.
- Having a dry mouth in the morning.
- Greater incidence of dental cavities and dental decay.
- Fatigue in the day.
- Waking up suddenly at night.
- Gasping, coughing and wheezing during the night.
Reasons for Snoring
So, what causes snoring? When there is a narrowing of your upper airway or if there is an obstruction in your nasal breathing, then snoring occurs. The muscles and the soft tissue of the throat relax while you sleep, causing the diameter of the airway to reduce. And, when the air flows through the relaxed tissues in the throat, they vibrate when you breathe and the air enters or leaves the airways (just like it is flowing through a whistle), and leads to snoring.
Factors that increase the chances of snoring:
- Sleeping on your back
- Drinking alcohol before bedtime
- Nasal congestion due to allergies or some illness
- Swollen tonsils or adenoids
- Large uvula or soft palate
- Side effects of certain medications
- Deviated septum or some other form of nasal deformity
Why Do People Snore?
Approximately 45% of men and 30% of women snore regularly. While any person can snore, certain physical characteristics are more likely to make people snore. Men snore more than women and being overweight can increase the risk of snoring and snoring can increase with age. Some women also snore when they are pregnant due to hormonal fluctuations, increase in weight, swelling in the nasal passages and increase of pressure on the diaphragm.
Around 10% of kids snore at night and due to tiny nasal passages, newborns and babies also snore; however, they outgrow this. Usually, chronic snoring during childhood results in poor performance in school and has negative cognitive effects.
Sometimes disabilities that affect the facial features or the construction of the nose, nasal passages or throat can also cause snoring. Also, sleeping on your back can increase the risk of snoring when the tongue relaxes into the upper airway and often, when you sleep on your side, the snoring may stop.
How to Fix Snoring
While excessive snoring can be damaging to your health and can also be extremely annoying to your partner, there are treatments to reduce snoring. There are simple remedies that you can try at home. The biggest challenge is probably to convince the person who snores that he/she needs some type of intervention to treat the snoring. Snoring can be treated by using low-cost and natural treatments that essentially begin with behavioral interventions and the symptoms can be completely alleviated by making a few lifestyle changes like:
- Losing weight — a little weight loss can help to reduce snoring.
- Avoid drinking alcohol a few hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid taking any antihistamines, sedatives and stimulants before your bedtime.
- Sleeping on your side instead of on your back.
- Improving the muscle tone in your neck by exercising.
Use Anti-Snoring Products
If the above behavioral changes don’t help in reducing your snoring, then you can try investing in some anti-snoring products.
While you can tilt your body off your back using regular pillows, you can do this more effectively by using anti-snoring pillows, which help to align your jaw, neck and throat in order to keep the airways open. You can also use special body pillows to help snorers maintain a sideways position while sleeping.
You can use nasal strips that are placed on the nose bridge and flatten the nose, which helps to enhance the airflow by increasing the openings of the nostrils and also the nasal passages. Nasal strips are a low-cost and drug-free way to stop you from snoring, which is especially useful in the case of pregnant women.
There are special sleepwear and also accessories that help you to maintain a sideways sleeping position. For example, there are nightshirts which have a ball sewn in the area between the shoulder blades that causes discomfort when you sleep on your back and force you to sleep on your side.
If you are suffering from nasal congestion, the swelling and inflammation can restrict the airflow. In this case, using OTC decongestants may help.
Nose vents are essentially nasal dilators that increase the airflow through your nasal passages. These nose vents are usually made of silicone and are available in many sizes, just like earbuds.
If your snoring is triggered because of allergies using an air purifier with a HEPA filter can help to reduce the dust mites, particles and other allergens in your home that could be causing nasal congestion.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can help to treat snoring along with sleep apnea. The CPAP machine produces air pressure through the mask on the mouth and nose forming an air splint in the throat while you sleep. This prevents snoring as the pressure helps to prevent the airway from collapsing.
Oral mouthpieces are specially created and fitted dental fixtures that can either pull your tongue forward or/and advance the lower jaw. This causes the airway in the throat to open more widely thus preventing or reducing snoring. You may need a dentist to customize these mouthpieces for you. Anti-snoring mouthpieces are quite small, discreet, portable and easy to use. These dental devices are also used as an effective treatment for bruxism (teeth grinding) while you sleep.
Radio wave treatments have shown promise in helping to shrink the soft tissues blocking the airways and therefore in the reduction of snoring.
Surgery to Prevent Snoring
If using behavioral therapies or anti-snoring products do not help to prevent or reduce your snoring, you can opt for surgical methods.
- Septoplasty: Snoring can occur when the septum in your nose (the cartilage separating your nostrils) is pushed to a side due to some injury and septoplasty is a surgery which helps to realign the septum, which helps to improve the nasal airflow.
- Uvuloplasty: In this, the uvula is removed so that the airway behind the palate is opened. This surgery does not require hospital stay and is an outpatient procedure.
- Somnoplasty: This along with another surgical procedure, coblation-channeling, involve shrinking the throat tissues by using heat, which allows you to breathe easier. Another option is to inject sclerosing agents into your soft palate, which cause the scarring of the tissues of the pharynx and as the scar evolves, the tissues shrink. While these surgical techniques can help to reduce your snoring, the snoring can relapse several years later with a much higher intensity.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: This procedure involves the widening of the throat opening by removing the uvula that is hanging from the soft palate’s roof along with some soft palatal tissue.
- Tonsillectomy: In this procedure, the tonsils are removed. The tonsils are located at the back of the throat and if they become enlarged, they can obstruct your breathing.
Tips on How to Sleep with a Snorer
If your partner snores loudly while sleeping, you can either invest in some of the anti-snoring products or consult a sleep specialist about the possibility of sleep apnea. However, it is quite possible that your partner’s snoring may not be eliminated completely. So, here are some tips to get you back to sleep:
- Buy a white noise machine or get a smartphone app. A white noise machine produces a static background of continuous white noise that can help to drown out any other type of noise, including snoring. Today, smartphone apps that produce white noise are becoming quite popular and apart from white noise, they also have other options such as ambient music, nature sounds, etc.
- Earplugs are available in various sizes, so use earplugs that fit well in your ears.
- Sleeping in separate bedrooms or beds can affect your relationship with your partner. Instead, invest in a larger and comfortable mattress that can give you some space and also help you fall asleep easily.
- Stagger your bedtimes so that you sleep earlier than your snoring partner. If you are asleep before your partner started snoring, you may not wake up.
- You could try relaxation and meditation exercises that can help you fall asleep even if your partner is snoring or they can help to keep you calm and fall back asleep if the snoring of your partner wakes you up.
Snoring not only disrupts your partner’s sleep, it can be harmful to your health too and indicates a serious health condition. So, it is a good idea to consult with your doctor and try some of the treatment options discussed in the article to help you get a good night’s sleep.