What Is Snoring?

Snoring is the loud, rasping sound that accompanies breathing in sleep. It’s a common medical condition, affecting an estimated 90 million Americans. Though usually considered a nuisance rather than a problem, snoring can be evidence of a more serious underlying medical issue, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Studies have also been conducted on the impact it has on domestic relationships. Snoring episodes can be regular or intermittent, and they tend to become more pronounced with age. 

What Are Snoring Symptoms?

The noise made while breathing asleep is the primary symptom of snoring. There are, however, a number of other symptoms associated with snoring that may indicate additional threats to your health:

  • Lack of nighttime rest and sleepiness during waking hours
  • Restlessness in bed
  • Choking, gasping, and occasional breath stoppages during sleep
  • Early morning sore throat
  • Headaches and focus issues
  • Nighttime chest pain
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Snoring can affect people of any age or either sex but, as with most medical conditions, certain factors increase its likelihood. The following factors are linked to an increased incidence of snoring:

  • Narrow throat passage
  • Deviated septum and other structural issues within the nasal passages
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Family history of snoring

In addition, men are more likely to snore than women.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is caused by obstacles in a person’s mouth, nose, or throat, which vibrate with the passage of air. These obstructions are typically anatomical, though they can be impacted by certain behaviors, such as alcohol consumption:

  • Palate and uvula issues: The palate is the roof of your mouth and the uvula is a fleshy extension of the palate at the back of your mouth. If either of these are unusually large or extended, they can partially block air coming from the nose, creating the vibratory effect of snoring. 
  • Obstructed nasal passages: Restricted airways in the nasal cavity can also be a source of snoring. These restrictions have a variety of causes, including allergy congestion, polyp growths, and deviated septa. 
  • Bulky throat tissues: Obesity can lead to snoring. How? One of places you gain weight is in your throat. Bulky throat tissues can obstruct airflow, as can adenoids and tonsils in those who haven’t had them surgically removed. 
  • Relaxed tongue and throat muscles: Relaxed tongue and throat muscles can also partially block air movement during breathing. This is a condition that often gets worse with age, and is also affected by the consumption of alcohol and sedatives.

Be sure to see your doctor if you experience any of the more serious symptoms associated with snoring.

How Is Snoring Diagnosed?

There are several steps in the diagnosis of snoring:

  • Documentation of symptoms: Your physician will make a record of your symptoms, including the frequency and intensity of snoring, secondary characteristics such as sleeplessness or choking, and the existence of related medical factors, such as weight gain. 
  • Physical exam: A physical exam will include inspection of your nose, mouth, and throat cavities for possible obstructions to breathing. It may also involve the use of an imaging technology to obtain a clearer picture of your internal anatomy.
  • Questioning an observer: Since you’re unconscious when you snore, your physician may want to question your spouse or another relevant observer who’s been kept awake by your sleeping. 
  • Sleep study: Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be asked to undergo a sleep study. Your snoring and other physiological behaviors will be monitored and recorded during a period of rest. Sleep studies are conducted at home or in specialized medical facilities. 

How Is Snoring Treated?

There are a variety of methods for treating snoring. Many of these can be undertaken at home, as a mean of reducing risk factors linked to snoring:

Treating Snoring at Home

  • New sleeping position: People who snore often sleep on their back. Try sleeping on your side to decrease the likelihood of throat obstruction.
  • Sleep higher: Propping up the head of your bed by at least four inches may reduce snoring. 
  • Lose weight: The heavier you are, the more likely you are to snore. 
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is unhealthy for many reasons; its link to increased snoring is yet another. 
  • Get adequate sleep: Adults require at least seven hours of sleep every night and children, even more. 
  • Reduce alcohol intake: Alcohol relaxes your throat and tongue muscles, turning them into breathing obstacles. Sleeping pills and other sedatives have a similar effect. 
  • Open nasal passages: Nasal strips or prescription sprays can help relieve nose congestion.

Medical Treatments for Snoring

For more serious conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea, your physician may recommend:

  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device: A CPAP is a breathing apparatus that you wear over your face while sleeping. It is connected to a pump, which keeps your breathing passages open by gently forcing pressurized air into them. CPAP is especially effective at stopping snoring but can be uncomfortable for some wearers, limiting their ability to sleep well.
  • An oral appliance: An oral appliance is a customized mouthpiece that helps keep your jaw, tongue, and palate in their proper position during sleep, reducing the possibility of partial obstruction. Though effective in some people, oral appliances can also lead to jaw pain, dry mouth, and involuntary drooling.
  • Surgery: In some cases, your medical team may opt for a surgical procedure to remove excess tissue from your breathing passages. For example, a procedure known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) involves the excision of tissue from the throat canal. Other procedures involve repositioning the upper and lower jaws and stimulating the hypoglossal nerve, which controls tongue movement. 

The success of these treatments can vary a great deal, based on the cause of snoring and the degree of commitment displayed by the patient to nightwear technologies.

Learn More About Snoring from Baptist Health

Snoring can be conquered. Start by scheduling an appointment with a Baptist Health primary care or sleep specialist today. 

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