Sleep and Snoring: CausesSimply Snoring or Something More?
Are you getting jabbed in the ribs by your partner at night? If so, you may be familiar with grumbles and complaints about your snoring. The nightly noise you make can disrupt your partner’s sleep and your own. It may even be a sign of a more serious condition called sleep apnea. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea, your throat may become blocked during sleep and you might stop breathing for short periods of time. You briefly wake up to breathe. This cycle repeats itself many times throughout the night. You may also snort or gasp in your sleep, wake up feeling tired or with a headache and feel very sleepy throughout the day.
The good news is that a range of treatment options are now available to help you breathe freely again so that you can get a good night’s sleep. To assist you in determining the best treatment option for you, visit with your doctor. An overnight sleep study may be suggested to help determine whether your snoring is due to sleep apnea or not.
If a sleep study is suggested, it'll give you the best picture of how you breathe at night when you sleep. You may be asked to spend a night at a sleep clinic, or you may be loaned a small monitor to use at home. Your breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels and other functions will be measured and recorded. The findings will help determine which treatments will be best for you.What Causes Snoring?
The physical obstruction of the flow of air through the mouth and nose is the cause of snoring. The walls of the throat vibrate during breathing, resulting in the distinctive sounds of snoring. Airflow can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:
- Obstructed nasal airways
- Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue
- Bulky throat tissue due to obesity
- Long soft palate and/or uvula
Habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an illness that is often associated with chronic snoring. This condition creates several problems, including:
- Long interruptions of breathing (more than 10 seconds) during sleep
- Frequent waking from sleep
- Sleeping lightly resulting in not getting enough sleep
- Lowered blood oxygen levels resulting in poor sleep causing drowsiness
If you occasionally snore, you can try the following behavior changes to help treat the problem:
- Lose weight and improve your eating habits
- Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before you go to bed
- Avoid alcohol, heavy meals, or snacks at least four hours before you sleep
- Establish regular sleeping patterns. For example, try to go to bed at the same time every night
- Sleep on your side rather than on your back
If none of the above-mentioned behavioral changes help reduce or stop snoring, talk to your doctor. Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) offer a variety of treatment options that may reduce or eliminate snoring or sleep apnea.
Other treatments for snoring may include using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. A patient may be fitted with a nasal mask that forces air through the upper airway. The air pressure is adjusted so that it’s just enough to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. This should help the person breathe better and sleep through the night.
It’s important to know the difference between a habitual snorer and an occasional snorer. If you find snoring to be a habit, consult with your doctor to see if there’s a solution for you.
Sources: The National Sleep Foundation, the American Sleep Apnea Association and Mayo Clinic.This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. We disclaim any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.