Because snoring is so common, many people think it’s harmless. However, loud, habitual snoring may be an indicator of serious underlying health issues. In this guide, we explain how and why we snore, the causes, underlying conditions, and how it impacts our sleep partners.
The Physiology of Snoring
The muscles in our throat relax when we sleep, causing our throat to fall backward and become narrow. When we breathe in, the walls of the throat vibrate, creating the characteristic snoring sound; when the air passages in our throat and nose are not blocked, there shouldn’t be any snoring. However, the narrower the airway becomes due to blockages, the more our soft palate and uvula vibrate. The greater the vibrations, the louder the noise of snoring.
Nasal blockages can be caused by many factors, including nasal septum deformities or nasal allergies. When your throat tissues or nasal passages are congested, swelling of tissue fluids causes loss of muscle tone and results in insufficient air flow through the airway.
Air blockages that lead to snoring may also be a result of sleeping at the wrong angle such as when lying on your back; by sleeping on your back, tissues in the upper airway are relaxed backward by gravity and obstruct the airways. Overweight people are also more likely to be snorers as another cause of snoring is bulky throat tissue.
When Snoring is Harmful
Many snorers have medical conditions that contribute to snoring such as a deviated septum, thick tissues in their soft palate, or enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Occasional snoring is usually not a cause for alarm; however, habitual snoring may indicate a more severe health issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Daytime dysfunction and risk of heart disease are common adverse effects on health caused by snoring.
Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the more alarming health problems associated with snoring; it creates several problems for the snorer including strain on the heart, disruptive sleep, long breathing interruptions, daytime fatigue, and chronic headaches. Sleep apnea may also cause obesity and low oxygen levels in the blood, which may result in pulmonary hypertension.
How Snoring Affects the People Around You
While snoring may be an early sign of future health risks, it may also affect the health of the people who live with the snorer.
Loud snoring is often more than just a nuisance for sleep partners as it’s enough to disrupt sleep or keep them up all night; sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep also impact your health and even puts the non-snorer also at risk of daytime dysfunction and heart disease.
Sleep deprivation caused by a snoring bed partner can lead to daytime drowsiness that results in accidents, impair attention and alertness, kill sex drive, age your skin prematurely, and mess with your memory. Chronic sleep loss also puts you at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
Ways to Stop Snoring
If chronic allergies cause your snoring, improve your condition with the help of your doctor, who may prescribe allergy medications. Heavy snoring also often occurs from taking sedatives or alcohol, which cause the throat muscles to relax too much; avoiding consuming these before you go to bed may reduce your risk of snoring.
Some people who are serious about minimizing their snoring for the sake of everyone who lives in their home may turn to devices such as anti-snoring mouthpieces, medical-grade nose vents, nasal dilators, and tongue displacement technology.
Because snoring occurs most often in people who are overweight, losing weight is the ideal first step to remedy your snoring. In fact, loud snoring may be your body’s way of telling you it’s time to address your weight issues. Want to continue the conversation on how weight loss may be the key to stop your snoring? Let’s talk.