by Kimberly Allen, RN
Snoring, that irritating noise that keeps people up, sends some to the couch and others to the guest room, occurs when your airway narrows interfering with the air that is passing through as you breathe. Men snore more often than women, studies indicate 45% of men snore, while 30% of women snore. Some people snore on a regular basis while others only snore at certain times like after a viral infection or drinking alcohol, even certain medications can cause you to snore. Also, studies indicate that people that are over weight or obese are significantly more prone to snoring.
As we breathe the air moves in and out from our nose and mouth to our lungs in a steady stream that makes almost no sound when we are at rest. Then when we exercise we produce more sound because the air is moving faster. In some people when they leep the passage way in the back of the throat narrows. So when the same amount of air tries to pass through the narrowed space the tissue that surrounds the opening begins to vibrate creating the sounds known as snoring.
Though snnoring is generally thought of as a minor affliction, the snorer can suffer from an underlying condition and most also will suffer some degree of impairment in their everyday life like sleep deprivation. Snoring is a known cause of sleep deprivation, not only to the person snoring but the people around them. Sleep deprivation then leads to other problems like daytime drowsiness, inability to concentrate and focus and irritability. There have also been several studies that indicate there is a link between loud snoring and a 34% increased risk of heart attack as well as a 67% increased risk of suffering a stroke. There have also been recent studies that have associated loud snoring with carotid artery atherosclerosis and the risk of brain damage.
Snoring has also been associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea can be a serious health condition. People that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea experience episodes when their breathing either significantly slows or stops completely for short periods at least 5 times every hour when sleeping. Some people have anatomical issues that contribute to snoring like a low, soft, thick palate or an elongated uvula, which is the triangular piece of tissue that is hanging in the back of your throat, can obstruct airflow increasing the vibrations and sound. Nasal problems like a deviated septum, which means the partition that separates your nostrils is crooked can obstruct air flow and cause snoring. Some people are born with a deviated septum while others suffer some type of injury to their nnose caussing the partition to move. Even chronic nasal congestion can impair air flow and lead to snoring.
Treatment of snoring depends on the cause. Your Dr will need to take a complete history and do a physical exam to rule out more serious conditions. For example with primary snnoring issues most Drs recommend starting with lifestyle changes. If you are over weight the Dr will recommend losing weight. Avoid consuming alcohol near bedtime and many improve their snoring by sleeping on their side instead of their back. There are now oral appliances available that help to keep your airway open. It’s important to visit your dentist regularly to
have your appliance checked to be sure the fit is correct. There are also surgical options available for people with anatomical issues that do not improve with non surgical intervention.
Snoring is a common issue in many homes and though it is usually more of a nuisance that a serious health risk if you or someone you know snores loudly and regularly see your Dr. Your Dr can determined if you have a more serious underlying condition like obstructive sleep apnea.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.