What is snoring?
Our upper airway tissue vibrates during sleep, sometimes vibrates, causing us to sniff and snort as we sleep. This noisy breathing is called snoring. Snoring can sometimes be in the form of a soft, whistling sound, and sometimes it can be heavy and loud. Snoring is a regular phenomenon that can affect all people, male or female, although it is more common among men, with studies showing that over 57% of men snore compared to 45% of women. Snoring is more rampant in older people.
Determining why some people snore and others don’t isn’t always easy, but some usual causes of snoring include;
- Irregularly shaped facial bones,
- A low, thick, and soft palate unusually small mouth,
- Swollen tonsils and adenoids,
- Congestion from allergies or a cold,
- Use of antihistamines or sleeping pills,
- Later stages of pregnancy,
- Alcohol consumption,
- Swollen uvula or soft palate.
Often, snoring can be pretty harmless, save for being a nuisance for your partner. Snoring can cause sleep deficiency for your partner, giving rise to various problems, including the likelihood to cause motor accidents. Different home remedies can help you reduce snoring if it becomes too disruptive, but if these don’t work or other symptoms accompany the snoring, you ought to seek medical treatment.
When to start worrying
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sometimes, snoring can signify a severe sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is generally identified by loud snoring, followed by some seconds of quiet during which your body pauses or stops breathing altogether, followed by more loud sounds (snorting) before the snoring starts again. OSA is often accompanied by daytime sleepiness or tiredness, gasping for air or choking episodes at night, and witnessed pauses in breathing while sleeping.
Sleep apnea is a threatening condition where you stop breathing for a minimum of 10 seconds at a time. These episodes of paused breathing can occur up to 5 times for every hour of sleep. Sleep apnea and lack of sufficient sleep can make it complicated for you to think intelligibly and accomplish your daily responsibilities.
Please note that if left untreated, sleep apnea can cause long-term complications such as an enlarged heart and high blood pressure. Recurrent incidents of upper airway collapse in sleep apnea can trigger arrhythmia events.
Complications that sleep apnea causes that can heighten the risk of arrhythmia and heart failure, include;
- it can cause hypoxia – this is repeated episodes of oxygen lowering,
- it can lead to changes in carbon dioxide levels,
- it can trigger pressure changes within the chest that directly affect the heart, and
- it increases levels of markers of inflammation
NB: Although loud snoring is the most common symptom of Obstructive sleep apnea, the absence of snoring does not rule out sleep apnea.
Other concerning complications you can experience if you snore or have sleep apnea include;
- Morning headaches – this can throw you off your whole game, making you unproductive at work.
- Tiredness after waking up – this can make it extremely hard for you to kick start your day in the morning, potentially making you cranky and ruining your entire day.
- Waking in the middle of the night with feelings of confusion – disrupts your sleep pattern, causing you to wake up tired and groggy in the morning.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness – this can lead to different problems such as inefficiency at work.
- Sudden weight gain – lack of sufficient sleep has been shown to cause excessive hunger and trigger a sweet tooth causing you to pile on extra pounds.
- Insufficient attention and concentration span stems from your brain not being adequately rested and recharged during sleep.
- Depreciated memory – this can affect your work performance as well as your day-to-day life.
- evidence of witnessed pauses in breathing during sleep
- Drowsy driving – this increases the likelihood of causing motor accidents.
As earlier mentioned. Sometimes snoring can be pretty harmless, but you may want to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis if accompanied by the above complications. If the doctor suspects you could have sleep apnea, they may perform a few tests or perform a sleep study to diagnose the seriousness of your snoring. You may also need an otolaryngologist to check your ears, nose, throat, and neck to diagnose the cause of snoring.
Doctors use the Apnea-Hypopnea Index or the Respiratory Disturbance Index to measure how severe obstructive sleep apnea is. If you have five episodes or more per hour and have other conditions like hypertension, mood disorders, or cardiac issues, you should seek treatment even if your Apnea-Hypopnea Index isn’t off the charts.
Some of the critical questions a doctor may ask you to find out if your snoring could be associated with a health problem include:
- How loud and how often you snore,
- Your preferred sleep positions
- Any sleep-depreciation problems you are experiencing such as daytime sleepiness, poor concentration span, or depreciated memory
- Any history of witnessed temporary stopped breathing while sleeping
Snoring can be a nuisance affecting not only your sleep but that of your partner as well. To treat this, your doctor may fit you with a dental device to prevent your tongue from blocking your airway.
If you are overweight, shedding off the extra weight can also help in treating snoring.
If your snoring is quite severe, you may need to undergo surgery to fix any blockage in the air passage that may be causing the snoring.
If your snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, you may need to sleep in a mask connected to a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. This device serves to reduce snoring and keep you breathing during sleep.
Quality and quantity sleep is essential for your mental, emotional and physical health and, as such, isn’t anything to be downplayed. I’d suggest giving anti snoring devices a try and if they do not help reduce your snoring, seek medical help. The doctor can help diagnose any possible medical conditions that may be disrupting your sleep and find ways to treat and reduce the snoring, to help you and your bed partner enjoy restful nights again.