Snoring is annoying and often depreciates the quality of your sleep, which can, in turn, impact many aspects of our day-to-day activities negatively.
What’s worse, snoring can be a sign of very severe sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It also increases the risk of heart attacks.
Why Does Snoring Occur?
Sometimes during sleep, your air passage is narrowed, obstructing the air that moves through your nose and mouth. In an attempt to make its way through, air causes the throat and mouth tissues to vibrate, subsequently causing a rattling noise called snoring.
Snoring is triggered by lots of various factors, some of which we can control. For instance, being obese can increase the chances of snoring, and cutting some of the excess weight can minimize the snoring.
Alcohol taken very close to bedtime has been associated with snoring. Alcohol causes your mouth tissues to swell a bit, narrowing the airway. Alcohol sedates your brain hence altering the quality of your sleep. Quit alcohol or avoid drinking it right before bedtime to prevent or reduce snoring.
In other cases, snoring is outside our control. Allergies and upper respiratory infections, and physical obstructions such as a large uvula or a deviated septum are all triggers of snoring that are out of our control. They can, however, be remedied using medication and, in some cases, surgery.
Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a severe sleep disorder where the snorer stops breathing during sleep for about 10 seconds and wakes up choking or gasping for air. These episodes can happen 5-15 times per hour for those with mild cases of OSA and up to 30 times per hour for people with severe symptoms of sleep apnea. The main symptom of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Not all snoring indicates sleep apnea but most people with sleep apnea snore.
Whether mild or severe, OSA can reduce sleep quality for both the snorer and their sleep partner. It also causes excessive daytime sleepiness, a high level of agitation, and poor concentration.
More serious, OSA has also been linked to a higher risk of more serious medical conditions, including; stroke, heart disorders, high blood pressure, and diabetes. This is why you need to seek professional medical advice if you are a snorer and are concerned about it being a sign of OSA.
When Snoring is Dangerous
If you suspect your snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, you have cause to worry. OSA is a dangerous condition that requires treatment. Symptoms associated with OSA include:
- Heavy snoring,
- Apnea or hypopnea episodes,
- Waking up with headaches in the morning,
- Daytime sleepiness,
- Poor concentration,
- High blood pressure
What to do about worrisome snoring
If you are a snorer and have one or more of the above symptoms, you most likely suffer from OSA. Don’t fret, though, as there are steps you can take to minimize the snoring.
- Avoid Alcohol and Other Sedatives before Bed – refrain from taking alcohol and sedative medications very close to bedtime.
- Lose Weight – Losing weight has can reduce snoring drastically.
- Use Anti-snoring mouthpieces – use of these devices may also be effective for some people. These devices are grouped into two;
- Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) – use a mold of your teeth to physically advance the tongue and lower jaw forward to improve airflow. Most MADs can be manually adjusted to ensure proper fitting.
- Tongue-retaining devices (TRDs) create a seal around the tongue and use suction to keep it in place, which ensures the tongue doesn’t fall into the back of the throat and blocks the airway. In most cases, TRDs have a universal size and don’t require any customization. They, however, cannot be adjusted. Note: Some anti-snoring mouthpieces require a prescription so ensure you check with your doctor before choosing your anti-snoring mouthpiece.
- Change Your Sleep Position – If you usually sleep on your back, try sleeping on your side position and if you have to sleep on your back, keep your head adequately elevated during sleep to minimize snoring.
Other Measures to Take
These are some simple ways you can combat prolonged and nagging snoring. If the problem persists, then try;
- Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy – CPAP is highly effective for people who snore due to OSA. Here’s how it works: a machine draws in outside air using a fan and pressurizes it to a specific setting, then the air is transmitted through a connective hose and into the sleeper’s nostrils or mouth. You will need a specialized face mask that seals off the nostril and mouth to ensure proper air delivery. Note: CPAP therapy requires a prescription and is only recommended for people who have been diagnosed with OSA. Your doctor may want to carry out ongoing assessments to check the progress.
- Surgery – if all else fails, and if some structural abnormalities cause your heavy snoring, you may need to consider surgery.
Snoring can be a tough nut to crack. If you or your loved one suffer from snoring, you must find out what the trigger is. Often, snoring is no more than an annoying habit rather than a cause for concern. In such cases, you can manage it with simple, non-invasive steps or use of anti-snore devices.
If you, however, suspect that the snoring is a symptom of something more severe such as sleep apnea, seek medical advice immediately. Also, if you are a non-snorer who suddenly started snoring loudly out of nowhere, seek help from a medic as it could be a sign of an obstruction forming in an airway.