Snoring is a common condition that can affect anyone, although it occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight. Snoring not only disrupts the sleep patterns of those close to you, but also impairs your own sleep quality.
Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. Air flow can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:
- Obstructed nasal airways from blocked sinuses due to allergies or infection, deformities such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
- Muscles in the throat and tongue can become too relaxed, which allows them to collapse and fall back into the airway. This can result from deep sleep, alcohol consumption, and use of some sleeping pills. Normal aging causes further relaxation of these muscles.
- Being overweight can cause bulky throat tissue. Also, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.
- A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. When these structures vibrate and bump against one another the airway becomes obstructed, causing snoring.
Habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea which is the involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs during sleep. Sleep apnea can cause serious problems including:
- Long interruptions of breathing (more than 10 seconds) during sleep caused by partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway
- Frequent waking from sleep, even though you may not realize it
- Light sleeping. People with obstructive sleep apnea sleep lightly to try to keep their throat muscles tense enough to maintain airflow
- Strain on the heart. Prolonged suffering from obstructive sleep apnea often results in higher blood pressure and may cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke
- Poor night's sleep. This leads to drowsiness during the day and can interfere with your quality of life
- Low oxygen levels in the blood. This can lead to constricted blood vessels in the lungs and eventually pulmonary hypertension
- Chronic headaches
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue