The A-Z of Snoring

Woman in bed with snoring spouse
Photo by Wavebreakmedia –

Like the picture above shows, you may have had an unfortunate experience with snoring. If you share a bedroom with your spouse or had a sleepover with friends, chances are you may have heard one of those people wheezing while you’re trying to sleep. There is always the chance that you’re the one who really snores!

Although it may prove to be a nuisance, it begs the question. What does snoring actually entail and what causes it? We will delve into this issue in order to understand exactly what snoring is and what causes it.

Defining Snoring

Snoring is a hoarse, rattling noise a person exudes while sleeping. The science behind it is that the soft palate, uvula, tongue, tonsils, and muscles located at the back of the throat rub against each other. The resulting friction is what generates a rough sound during sleep. In other words, it is due to the obstructed air movement during breathing during sleep. The following video is a well-documented illustration of what happens if the muscles in the back of the throat contract too much. 

As a matter of fact, snoring is a frequent occurrence in men and women. One in five adults have chronic snoring while 45% snore sporadically. In addition, the chances of snoring are directly proportional to age. As we grow older, so does the prospect of snoring. More than half of adults aged 60 and above snore regularly.

Furthermore, snoring may be a significant precursor to a disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This phenomenon transpires when a portion of the airway is blocked when a person tries to inhale during sleep. This generally occurs on the back of the throat. The consequence is that breathing ceases for more than 10 seconds as a stretch before normal service is resumed.

The astonishing fact about obstructive sleep apnea is that it occurs several times during the average sleeping pattern at night. Naturally, patients with sleep apnea snore considerably and quite loudly for that matter. The contraction of the airways causes sleep apnea since the tissues of the throat are inflamed.

That is not all there is to snoring. The action may be connected to physical ailments or anxiety as well. One such case which may be hard to believe but truly exists is socially unacceptable snoring. This means that the snoring sounds are significant enough to inhibit others from sleeping.

Image of man snoring

Snoring Symptoms

We have already established that snoring may be linked to the disorder of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Now we can consider the signals of snoring that could potentially mean much more.

If an individual experiences breathing pauses while asleep and if they’re partner observes it or someone happens to witness it, then that could mean that they suffer from the condition. If a person is sleeping abundantly during the day then that could also mean that they might have OSA. The main concern that presents itself when trying to gauge symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is that they can occur with countless other ailments and infections as well.

Nevertheless, if other symptoms exhibit, then they must be dealt with by visiting a doctor. If an individual has debilitating headaches and trouble focusing, that could also be a sign of sleep apnea. Restless sleeping patterns and impromptu choking, particularly when asleep are other clues. Fatigue, high blood pressure, chest congestion, dry mouth and extraordinary snoring round out a major list of symptoms. If any combination of these begins to manifest themselves, then a specialist must be consulted.
Anatomy of Human Nasal Path

Causes of Snoring

There are multiple determinants that are catalysts of snoring. One factor that induces snoring is the anatomy of the person’s mouth. Anatomy refers to bodily structures. In this particular case, having a low and dense soft palate can narrow the airways. Obese individuals are specifically at risk, since they may have extra tissues at the end of their throat. Also, if the triangular tissue which hangs from the uvula is elongated, it could barricade the flow of air.

Additionally, alcohol has the potential to engender a person with snoring. Most kinds of alcoholic beverages are a detriment to a person’s health. If they are habitual drinkers, specifically before bedtime, then that could incite episodes of snoring. This is because alcohol has the propensity to relax throat muscles and the natural defenses of the throat are weakened.

The position a person sleeps in can also be conducive to snoring. For instance, those who rest on their back are more likely to snore as gravity’s effect on their throats narrows the airways. The same principle applies to a lack of sleep. If you do not get sufficient sleep, it can relax the throat more than required, which can provoke snoring at night. Lastly, nasal allergies, especially of the chronic variety or even a crooked partition, referred to as a deviated nasal septum, between the nostrils can produce snoring in people.

Risks Associated with Snoring

Snoring has potential health risks. Those who do it chronically may eventually suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which we discussed in detail above. The risks of OSA include interruptions when breathing. These delays can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes, depending on severity. Obviously, this is caused by fragmented or total hindrance of the airways.

Sleep apnea can also initiate routine waking from sleep, which would involve the person not knowing the actual cause of why they suddenly woke up. They may just shrug it off without knowing that they could be suffering from a legitimate disorder.

Light sleeping is an extension of this occurrence. Individuals may awake several times during the night and often at the slightest sound even without a distraction in the room. This may impact their sleeping cycle as well. They will also be unable to have a deeper sleep and will spend their nights being disturbed.

Another risk brought about by snoring is that it could put a strain on the heart. Protracted suffering from obstructive sleep apnea can influence the cardiac organ. This would involve elevated blood pressure and greater risk of having a heart attack too.

Snoring does not mean you have OSA, but if you feel you might have it, speak to your doctor. He/She can recommend sleep studies (usually done at a hospital) to confirm if you have it and if you do, there are ways to correct it. If you don’t but you do snore, there are devices that may help you. Just Google snoring devices or a similar term to find a device that you think may work for you.