We’ve all heard it before. That sound (or noise) that echoes through the halls and walls of your house. Somebody’s snoring. And you hope that someone isn’t lying down beside you. How unfortunate. It was you who was snoring! Your partner woke you up and told you that you were snoring. What is snoring? Why does it happen to only some people and not to others?
Almost everyone snores from time to time especially when you’re exhausted from a long day at work. It’s usually something you shouldn’t worry about. It only becomes worrisome if it happens on a daily or nightly basis.
You, The Great Snorer
What is snoring? Snoring is an umbrella term for the breathing sound that some people make during sleep. There are several kinds of snoring sounds. They all originate from the vibration of structures inside your throat, the most common of which is the back of the roof of your mouth (called soft palate). Simply put, when you’re asleep, the muscles in your body relax, including the ones found in your throat and oral cavity. When air flows through them, they vibrate and produce the sound (or noise, as your partner might call it) identified as snoring.
What are the common causes? Here are some common reasons for snoring:
It may be a gender issue. No, we’re not turning this into a battle of the sexes. It’s biology which dictates that men have narrower airways compared to women. It’s because of this that men are more likely to snore.
You may have inherited or are born with something different in your anatomy. Unfortunately, that thing you inherited didn’t make you rich; it made you snore. Physical abnormalities or variations like enlarged tonsils, a narrow throat, or a cleft palate are good examples.
Sleeping in a coffin-like posture. Not to sound morbid but lying flat on your back while sleeping causes the muscles of your throat to relax and may partially block your airway.
A stuffy nose (during an allergy or cold) or a polyp in your nasal passages can make breathing difficult and enable your throat to become a resonating chamber.
Middle age and beyond. Starting in middle age, the muscle tone in your throat decreases. Loss of tone leads to more loose flesh able to flap, hence snoring.
You may be a bit on the heavy side, uhm, overweight is what we really mean. Too much adipose tissue around your neck can lead to snoring. If this is the case, diet and exercise changes may be all you need to stop snoring.
Some medications can make you more susceptible to snoring like certain sedatives.This is because they relax all the muscles in your body, including in your throat. Alcohol has a similar effect. It’s particularly dangerous if you combine medications and alcohol.
Practical Solutions You Can Try to Stop or Lessen Your Snoring
Pick a side. This remedy works for a lot of people. Try sleeping on your side (the left or the right) instead of on your back. Your partner may have already worked this out and may turn you on your side when you’re asleep and snoring.
Increase the number of pillows under your head. Some people find it easier to breath when their head is elevated. It also keeps your tongue in place preventing it from falling back and blocking your windpipe.
Air Moisture. Keep the surrounding air in your bedroom moist. Moist air helps your nasal passages to trap and eliminate allergens thereby improving allergy symptoms. Less nasal congestion from allergies means less snoring for you. Natural decongestants and allergy support may also help to reduce inflammation and soothe your swollen nasal passages.
Exercise. It doesn’t just tone the groups of muscles in your trunk and extremities, it also tones the muscles in your throat, preventing them from relaxing as easily. Regular exercise also trims the fatty tissue deposits around your neck and in the back of your throat.
Indoor air pollutants like dust is an environmental health risk. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are excellent at removing air pollutants and are particularly useful for family members who have asthma, allergies, atopic dermatitis, and those who have snoring problems.
Improve your diet. Avoid alcohol and refrain from eating heavy meals right before you sleep. Sleep experts have found that snoring is worse if you go to sleep on a full stomach.
Smoking intensifies your snoring. Smoking damages the lining of your airways (nose and throat) making them lose tone and making you more prone to snoring.
When practical solutions fail, it’s time to turn to common medical solutions like:
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). A pressurised mask is worn over your nose while you sleep. The mask delivers pressurised air to keep your airways from collapsing.
Palatal implants. These are plastic implants placed in your soft palate to prevent it from collapsing.
Surgical treatments like somnoplasty (removal of vibrating structures through radiofrequency) and tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils).
(LAUP) Laser-assisted Uvulopalatoplasty. A laser is used to remove parts of your uvula and soft palate.
These danger signs may indicate you may have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) which is a serious medical condition. Click here to read more about this condition. If you are concerned you may have this, visit your doctor.
So as you can see there are several easy and practical solutions you can try to stop or minimise your snoring. It’s essential to have patience and eagerness to give these a try. If you have no luck with any of these suggestions, it’s time to visit your healthcare practitioner for further investigation. And no, sleeping in another bedroom away from your partner is NOT the answer to reduce your snoring. For your partner it may work, but definitely NOT for you.