Here's What Snoring Can Say About Your Health
Snoring is more common than you might think. In fact, an estimated 45 percent of adults do so occasionally, whereas 25 percent snore on a regular basis, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
People who snore regularly often have trouble sleeping and may disturb the sleep of their partners, too. And aside from the nuisance snoring can cause when you're trying to get a good night's sleep, it's sometimes a sign of other health issues as well.
What causes snoring
Snoring is a hoarse sound some people emit in their sleep that occurs when the relaxed tissues in the throat vibrate as they breathe. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people snore every now and then, but chronic snoring can be a sign of something more serious and prevent you from getting the restful sleep you need to stay healthy.
There are several factors that can contribute to snoring, including simple anatomy. A low and thick soft palate, extra tissue at the back of the throat or an elongated uvula—the pink dangly thing in the back of your throat—can all narrow a person's airway, making it more likely for obstruction and vibration to occur, which results in snoring.
Here are some other reasons you might be snoring.
- You're a heavy drinker. Experts have found having one—or a few—too many drinks close to bedtime can cause you to snore, as the effects of alcohol in your body relax the muscles in your throat and make you less equipped to naturally prevent airway obstruction as you would be if you went to bed sober.
- You're not getting enough sleep. When you finally fall asleep after going too long without adequate rest, your body can go into deep-sleep mode. When this happens, your throat muscles relax more than normal, leading to snoring as you breathe in and out.
- You have nasal problems. If you deal with chronic nasal congestion, sinus problems or if you have a deviated septum—when the thin wall between nasal passages is displaced and one nasal air passage is smaller than the other one—chances are you're likely a chronic snorer. Anytime the airways in the nostrils are obstructed in a significant way, there will be extra vibrations as you breathe, causing snoring.
- You sleep on your back. Back sleepers are known to snore more frequently and loudly. This is for one simple reason: gravity. When you lie on your back, gravity causes the airway in the throat to narrow, causing you to snore.
- You might have a sleep disorder. Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that causes you to go through periods of loud snoring followed by periods in which your breathing slows or stops altogether. These silent periods can lead you to wake up suddenly or snort or gasp loudly as you begin to breathe again. OSA is especially common in obese patients. While not everyone who snores has OSA, you may have the disorder if your snoring causes you to periodically stop breathing during sleep. Other symptoms associated with OSA are morning headaches, sore throat, high blood pressure, restless sleep, chest pain at night and more. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor immediately for evaluation and treatment, as untreated OSA can lead to complications, such as an increased risk for stroke and heart attack. With proper treatment, sleep apnea symptoms can usually be completely controlled or eliminated, and that can make a huge difference in someone's quality of life.
How to deal with snoring
Some people are more likely to have chronic snoring issues than others. According to the Mayo Clinic, being male, being overweight, drinking alcohol, having a narrow airway, having nasal problems, or having a family history of OSA all put you at a greater risk of developing chronic snoring issues at some point.
Aside from the unpleasant side effects of snoring—such as dry mouth, headaches and so on—oftentimes one of the biggest problems is it can severely impede the rest both you and your partner need. Fortunately, if your snoring is caused by OSA, there are effective treatments you can get from your doctor, including a breathing machine you can use as you sleep.
For many people, snoring issues can be solved after implementing a few healthy lifestyle changes.
If your snoring is caused by something else, it may prove fruitful to pinpoint what that something else is. For example, if you're a back sleeper, try sleeping in a different position to see if your snoring is reduced. Experts also believe avoiding alcohol before bed and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce snoring.
For many people, snoring issues can be solved after implementing a few healthy lifestyle changes. But if the problem persists, you can sign up for a sleep study and undergo an evaluation by a medical professional to help determine the problem.
If snoring is getting in the way of your rest, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor. Effective treatment may be just around the corner.