Snoring is a common affliction. An estimated 90 million Americans snore occasionally, and 1/3 of those are considered habitual snorers. Snoring may be related to anatomy, sleeping habits or a combination of factors.
What Causes Snoring
As widespread as snoring is, there are a lot of different reasons people snore. Discovering why you snore is the key to treating it. Snoring occurs when air cannot pass through your nose and mouth while you sleep. This can be the result of excess or bulky throat and nasal tissue, relaxation of the throat muscles and tongue that cause them to droop and block the airway, a narrow airway, or poor sleep posture. Additional factors that increase the odds of snoring include age (your throat narrows and muscle tone decreases as you get older), heredity, physical features (such as a cleft palate or enlarged adenoids), nasal and sinus conditions, being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking and sleeping on your back.
In some individuals, the airway is so narrow that breathing ceases periodically through the night. Oxygen levels drop, and the heart has to pump harder. This condition, known as obstructive sleep apnea, can lead to serious health problems and should be evaluated by a sleep professional, who can make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
Snoring may be embarrassing to the person suffering, and an annoyance to their sleeping partner, who may miss out on valuable sleep themselves. This can put a negative strain on an otherwise healthy relationship. But beyond the social stigma, it can cause side effects such as daytime sleepiness and a loss of concentration and memory. Thereby, ignoring the problem is not an option.
Lifestyle changes, such as altering your sleeping position and losing weight, often lead to a reduction in snoring. More serious cases may benefit from nasal breathing strips or oral mouth guards. When obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or surgery may be necessary.