Snoring is often downplayed as a mere inconvenience to others, or even as a funny joke altogether. However, the collateral damage to others is not that little – having constantly disrupted sleep due to your partner’s snoring is not sustainable; and it may actually also be a sign of a more serious health condition.
How common is snoring?
Over 50% of adults snore occasionally and 25% are habitual snorers. Snoring is more common in males, post-menopausal females and people with obesity.
What causes snoring?
Snoring is the noise produced during sleep due to obstruction of the airflow through the airways. The air squeezed through the collapsible upper airway consisting of soft palate, uvula, tonsils, adenoids, base of tongue, epiglottis and loose pharyngeal walls. The fluttering and vibration of these structures produce the noise.
The obstruction of the airways can be cause by:
- Rhinitis, sinusitis or similar types of infection
- Anatomical faults, like a crooked nasal septum, enlarged tonsils or polyps.
- Excessive fat in the neck can “strangulate” the airway,
Can snoring become dangerous?
Chronic snoring usually gets worse over time and may lead to a disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where the obstruction is so severe that the airflow is greatly reduced. The heart and lung muscles must work harder to get enough oxygen. The lungs eventually become so tired that they have to “take a break”, and the sleeper effectively stops breathing for a short period of time. When OSA happens and oxygen levels drop, the brains and other organs do not receive enough oxygen, possibly leading to “brain suffocation” and an adverse effect on the body’s performance and functions. Also, lowered oxygen levels increase heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
What is the treatment for snoring?
Treatment needs to be specifically tailored to the severity, the patient’s anatomy, state of health, lifestyle and preferences. Here are some possible treatments and management solutions:
- Weight reduction to lessen the amount of fatty tissue around the neck
- Not sleeping on your back as the tongue and the soft palate may fall backwards and block the airway
- Avoidance of alcohol and sedatives which cause airway muscles to relax and collapse further
- To stop smoking, as it damages the lungs and inhibits respiratory functions
- Using the Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine, which pumps air through a tight- fitting mask throughout the night
- Surgery to remove or correct specific physical obstructions or to widen the airway
- Surgical correction of the cheek and jawbone to widen the airway
- Utilising dental appliances to keep the mouth closed, the jaw forward and the tongue in its proper place