Snoring: What are the Possible Causes
The harsh or hoarse sound created when air flows beyond the relaxed tissues in the throat is called snoring. Almost everyone snores every now and then. However, for others, snoring has become a chronic problem and finding a way how to treat snoring is warranted.
In mild cases, once patients find a way how to stop snoring, the condition can stop. In severe cases however, further evaluation is needed as the snoring can be an indicator of more serious health conditions.
Snoring can be attributed to several factors like allergies, cold, alcohol consumption, weight, and the anatomy of the individual’s mouth and sinuses, among others.
When a person’s sleep progresses from light to deep, the soft palate (muscles found in the roof the mouth), throat, and the tongue relaxes. When the throat tissues are relaxed enough, the airway is blocked and it vibrates.
The more narrowed the airway is, the more forceful the airflow will be. As the vibration of the tissues increases, the snoring also grows louder.
The following are some of the key factors that can affect the airways and can result to snoring:
- The anatomy of the mouth
As mentioned earlier, having a thick and low soft palate can narrow down the airway. People who are overweight or obese may also have extra tissues in the back of their throats that can cause narrowing of the airway. Likewise, if the uvula (the triangular tissue that hangs from the soft palate) is elongated, the airflow can become obstructed and vibration can increase.
- Nasal problems
A deviated nasal septum (crooked partition between the nostrils) or chronic nasal congestion may also cause or contribute to snoring.
- Alcohol consumption
Snoring can also occur when too much alcohol is consumed before bedtime. Alcohol can relax the throat muscles and decrease the person’s natural defences against obstruction of the airway.
- Sleep position
Snoring can become more frequent and loud when one sleeps on their back as gravity’s effect on the throat can narrow down the airway.
- Sleep deprivation
Not getting ample sleep may also result in throat relaxation and eventual snoring.
In many cases, snoring is linked with a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, not everyone who snores are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. If the following symptoms occur with snoring, it would be a good idea to visit your doctor for further evaluation.
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive sleepiness during daytime
- Morning headaches
- Sore throat upon waking up
- Chest pain during the night
- Choking or gasping at night
- Snoring that’s loud enough to disrupt one’s bed partner
Obstructive sleep apnea is typically characterised by loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops. The pause or reduction in breathing may signal patients to wake up and most awaken with a gasping sound or loud snort.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea may also often experience disrupted sleep. The pattern of breathing pauses can also occur several times during the night. In addition, some studies show that those with obstructive sleep apnea experience breathing slows and stops at least 5 times every hour.