What Is the Reason for Snoring?
During sleep, the whole body relaxes, including the mouth, tongue, and airways (nose and throat) which make them vibrate when we breathe causing snoring.
It is estimated that about 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are regular snorers .
1. Is Snoring Dangerous?
Although snoring is harmless, it can also be due to a serious health issue when it is associated with obstructive sleep apnea and chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes and high cholesterol.
2. What Are the Causes of Snoring?
Snoring can be due to lifestyles such as smoking, consumption of alcohol and sedatives, or sleep positions but it can also be associated with genetics such as inherited genes that shape the head and neck anatomy of an individual.
Snoring can also be associated with conditions including chronic nasal congestion, obstructive sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism.
- Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition characterized by intermittent episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the airways due to soft tissue falling at the back of the throat (Upper airway) when sleeping.
It is estimated that approximately 34% of middle-aged men and 17% of middle-aged women are diagnosed with OSA .
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause cardiovascular diseases through the following mechanisms :
- Sympathetic activation (fight-or-flight response)
- Intrathoracic pressure changes that limit heartbeat
- Oxidative stress causing tissue damage
- Abnormalities in coagulation factors
- Endothelial damage (damage to the blood vessels)
- Inflammatory mediators that lead to defects in the formation of vessels.
- Snoring and Head and Neck Anatomy
The shape of the head and face, the anatomy of the upper airway, and the circumference of the neck are predictors of sleep apnea and snoring in individuals .
A large tongue, craniofacial abnormalities, a receding chin, and a small jaw are associated with the reduction of the size of the upper airway which increases the risk of sleep apnea and snoring.
A neck circumference that is higher than 16.5 inches is also a risk factor for sleep apnea and snoring.
Abnormalities in cells that control breathing known as chemoreceptors can also reduce the size of the upper airway.
These anatomical characteristics may be due to inherited genes responsible for increased risk of sleep apnea and snoring .
- Snoring and Alcohol
Alcohol consumption increases the relaxation of soft tissues in the upper airway causing sleep apnea and snoring.
A study showed that alcohol consumption increases the severity of snoring, sleep apnea, and the levels of oxygen in blood and tissues (Hypoxia) .
- Snoring and Sedatives
Analgesics, anesthetics, opioids, and sedatives can also increase the relaxation of the tongue and soft tissues in the upper airway resulting in sleep apnea and snoring .
- Snoring and Smoking
Cigarette smoke can irritate and inflame the nasal cavity and the upper airway making them swell which reduces the capacity of breathing.
Another cause may be associated with nicotine withdrawal during sleep that causes sleep instability that increases the risk of sleep apnea and snoring .
- Snoring and Sleep Position
Sleeping on the lateral side is the best position while sleeping on the back is likely to increase sleep apnea and snoring.
This difference is due to gravity that increases the tendency for the tongue and soft tissues to fall to the back of the throat causing obstruction of the upper airway .
- Snoring and Chronic Nasal Congestion
Chronic Nasal Congestion is characterized by inflammation and swelling of the nasal cavity and the sinuses that lasts for more than 3 months and resulting in reduced breathing through the nose.
Chronic Nasal Congestion can be caused by sinusitis, nasal polyps, allergic rhinitis, or a deviated nasal septum (wall between the nasal cavities).
A study found that nasal congestion during sleep is a strong risk factor for habitual snoring .
- Snoring and Aging
The relaxation of the muscles of the upper airway is a normal event in aging which explains why it is common in the adult population.
However, persistent snoring is an indicator of a potential reduction of oxygen levels in blood and tissue (Hypoxia) associated with sleep apnea. Persistent hypoxia may increase the process of aging by promoting hallmarks of aging such as stem cell exhaustion, telomere attrition, and epigenetic changes .
- Snoring and Being Overweight
Being overweight or out of shape can reduce muscle tone and increase fat deposition around the neck and throat that can promote the obstruction of the upper airway causing sleep apnea and snoring.
- Snoring and Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a disorder associated with reduced production of the thyroid hormones resulting in symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, depression, and slow heart rate .
Another important characteristic of hypothyroidism is the enlargement of the thyroid known as goiter (neck looking enlarged) that can interfere with breathing by obstructing the upper airway causing sleep apnea and snoring.
3. Why Do I Snore Loud?
Sounding loud is associated with a higher obstruction of the upper airway. The more it is obstructed the more is the breathing difficulty, and therefore, the louder is the snoring.
4- How Is snoring Tested?
- Home Sleep Apnea Test
Portable devices are used to measure the breathing and blood oxygen level while you sleep.
- In-lab sleep study
This is performed in a sleep center where brain waves, breathing, eye movements, blood oxygen, heartbeats, and limb movements are measured.
5. What Are the Best Snoring Solutions?
Snoring can be reduced by tackling the causes that are outlined above.
- Lifestyle changes
– Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption can significantly prevent sleep apnea and snoring.
– Sleeping on the lateral side can reduce snoring.
– In addition to other benefits for health, quitting smoking can also gradually prevent or reduce snoring.
– Losing weight through a healthy diet and exercise.
– Avoiding tranquilizers and sleeping pills.
- Treatment of allergies
Allergies can cause chronic nasal congestion, and therefore, medications that reduce allergies can prevent snoring.
To restore a normal breathing pattern during the night surgery is performed on the nose or the back of the throat.
This is performed using a device that gently blows room temperature air through a mask or mouthpiece to the back of the throat to prevent breathing pauses.
- Oral Appliance Therapy
This therapy involves the use of a removable oral device and is recommended for individuals who cannot tolerate CPAP and whose OSA is moderate or mild.
Snoring increases with age and can be due to lifestyle which can be reversed by making changes in sleep position, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and having a healthy diet; however, it can become serious and lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes if untreated.