What Are the Common Causes of Snoring While Sleeping?


Published On: 18th January 2019
Last Updated On: 19th January 2019

Snoring is a big problem for most of the people all around the globe. It is very common in all ages and both genders.

About 90 million adults generally suffer from snoring and 37 million on a regular basis. Women do not suffer from snoring as frequently as men.

It can cause disruptions to one’s sleep and result in sleep deprivation. For a person to work normally and lead a happy life, it is very necessary to get enough and peaceful sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep is necessary for a normal functioning of the human body.

As trivial as this issue may seem, it affects the mental and physical conditions of the snorer and the sleeping partner as well. 25% of adults are habitual snorers while 45% tend to snore occasionally all around the world.

In general, snoring gets worse with age and body weight. Multiple studies show a relation between snoring and having a heart attack by 34% and a stroke by 67%. So, snoring can be a lot dangerous for your health.

Snoring not only causes a nuisance to the snorer but also the people nearby. The sound may be soft and low in sound but sometimes it is loud and throaty.  It results in lack of sleep and focus, sleep deprivation, irritation, daytime sleepiness and drowsiness and most importantly an irritable mood.

These conditions do not let a person work normally and properly. The sufferer feels more tired than he actually is and may tend to skip most of the day’s work.

What is Snoring?

During sleep, the respiratory structure of the throat vibrate and produce irregular sounds due to the obstruction of air through the throat. This is known as snoring. When the soft tissue of nasopharynx is involved in the snoring, the snore comes out to be soft and low in sound quality.

The vibrations of uvula and soft palate produces a snore that is rather loud and throaty. Snoring occurs usually when a person goes into stage 4 sleep called deep sleep. After 90 minutes of being asleep, a person goes into a deep sleep.

During sleeping, tissues of the throat relax and result in the narrowing of air passageways, which causes snoring. Snoring during sleep may also be an indication of obstructive sleep apnea which is also known as OSA. It is one of the most common types of sleep apnea and is caused by obstruction of the upper air passageway.

It is indicated by shallow episodes of breathing and difficulty in breathing despite trying very hard to breathe. These episodes of obstructed breathing last for 20 to 40 seconds. Symptoms may be really hard to notice and occurs for years without noticing. The sufferer may become accustomed to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

What are the types of snoring?

There are some types of snoring depending on the structures that are involved in it.

  1. Nasal snoring
  2. Mouth snoring
  3. Tongue snoring

Without further ado, let’s look into each type a little more closely

  • Nasal snoring

When we get the flu, infection or an allergy, our nasal passages get blocked with mucus. This results in less intake of air through the nose and excessive intake of air through the mouth.

When a large quantity of air enters the mouth, it results in harsh and loud sounds, called snoring.

Another reason for nasal snoring may be a deviated septum. In this condition, the thin and narrow wall separating the two nostrils inclines to one side, restricting the flow of air to one nostril. This may also result in loud snoring.

The treatment for nasal snoring may be unclogging the nasal passages or using medications that alleviate the symptoms of flu and colds. For a deviated symptoms, some doctors may also suggest surgery.

  • Mouth snoring

Mouth snoring is the most common type of snoring people experience. In this type of snoring, soft tissues of the palate vibrate against each other resulting in snoring. It is most common in people who are accustomed to breathing from their mouths and also in people who sleep on their back.

The treatment of this kind of snoring might be raising the head of your bed, sleeping on your side or using over-the-counter aids such as anti-snore pillows or strips.

  • Tongue snoring

When we sleep, our muscles relax, including the muscles of our mouth and throat. The tissues of our tongue relax too. Sometimes, they relax to the point where the tongue leaves its place and moves further back in the throat. This causes a hurdle in normal breathing and may result in snoring.

The treatment for this kind of snoring is to avoid taking sleeping pills or any kind of pills that may relax your muscles more than they need to be relaxed.

In addition, medical devices and surgery are available to reduce snoring. However, these are not suitable for everyone who snores and they do not give 100% results as well.

What are the symptoms of snoring?

There are many signs and symptoms of snoring. Some of which are listed below

  • Breathing pauses during sleep. They may be short or long depending on your condition.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and drowsiness are also one of the symptoms of snoring.
  • One of the symptoms is difficulty in concentration and lack of focus which results in a decrease in the amount of work you do.
  • Headaches in the morning and sore throat upon awakening which can be very irritating.
  • High blood pressure may also indicate snoring. It also causes chest pain and irritable mood.
  • Gasping or choking sounds in the middle of the night while sleeping.
  • A restless sleep and difficulty in concentration and focus.

What is the treatment for snoring?

Up till now, there is no specific treatment that can cure or stop snoring permanently. Almost all treatments revolve around clearing the blockage in the air passageways and making breathing easier and more comfortable.

Medications are not really helpful in treating snoring problems. If the snoring is due to nasal congestion and allergic reactions, medications can help.

Doctors mostly recommend a change in the lifestyle of the snorers to reduce the intensity of the problem. A number of other over-the-counter aids are also used to make this issue lesser. Some of which are nasal strips, nasal sprays, lubricating sprays, nose clips, anti snore pillows and strips etc.

They are not scientifically claimed to reduce or stop your snoring but trying them can sometimes give you positive results.

Other lifestyle changes that need to be changed to see a difference in your snoring are

  • Losing weight, so your throat is less bulky and fat. In this way, the air can move through your throat easily and not cause obstruction.
  • Stop smoking as smoking weakens the throat muscles and tissues and clogs them as well. This plays a big role in causing harsh and deep snoring sounds.
  • It is very important to avoid sedative medicines or relaxants which can cause your tongue to move further back in your throat while sleeping. This may disturb the normal passage of the air and result in snoring.
  • It is also suggested to sleep on one’s side and avoid sleeping on the back, for the lungs to get proper air and the breathing process to carry on normally.

What are the causes of snoring?

Snoring is caused by a number of factors. Some of which are

  • When you doze off and go into deep sleep, the muscles of your mouth, throat, tongue and soft palate relax. Sometimes, the tissues can relax so much that it narrows your airways and cause difficulty in the air passage. The narrower the airway becomes, it is more difficult for air to pass and the vibrations become louder and intense. It causes your snoring to grow louder.
  • Your mouth anatomy also has a big effect on your snoring. Having a low and soft palate can narrow the airway. Obese or fat people may also have extra tissue in the back of their throat which may narrow the airways too. Moreover, if the triangular piece of flesh hanging from the uvula is elongated abnormally, it may also cause obstructions in breathing.
  • Alcohol consumption can be a big contribution to snoring. Consuming alcohol may relax your muscles to the extent where the natural defenses against obstruction are decreased. It is advisable to lower alcohol consumption especially before bedtime.
  • Chronic nasal inflammation or congestion  may also cause snoring. This congestion may be due to allergies or sinus problems. A crooked partition between the nostrils called the deviated septum may also result in loud snoring and blocked airways.
  • Sleeping positions matter a lot when it comes to snoring. It is always suggested to sleep on your side and not on your back. Sleeping on one’s back causes loud snoring due to gravity’s effect in narrowing the airways.
  • Genetic factors can also lead to snoring. Factors such as enlarged tonsils , elongated uvula, extra throat tissue etc can cause snoring.
  • Taking drugs or relaxing medications before bedtime can also cause snoring. For snorers, it is suggested to not take sleeping pills, antidepressants or muscle relaxants before sleeping.

Habitual snoring is more than just a nuisance and affects the life of snorer deeply. There could be a number of complications as a result of snoring as well. Apart from disturbing yours and everyone else’s sleep, if your snoring is associated with obstructive sleep apnea, you may face other complications as well.

If your snoring is related to obstructive sleep apnea, you may have an increased chance of getting a heart attack or stroke, due to the high blood pressure. Other complications include daytime sleepiness, frustration and anger, a bad mood and less productivity. An increased rate of brawls and arguments. Also, the chance of motor-vehicle accidents also increases due to a lack of focus and slow mind functioning.

You should surely see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Your child can have a snoring problem too. Try seeking help from a pediatrician about it. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea too, due to enlarged tonsils or obesity. Poor attention span, bad behavioral problems at school and an irritable mood can indicate obstructive sleep apnea in kids.

Diagnosis of Snoring

To diagnose your condition, your doctor might ask your sleeping partner some questions about the severity and timings of your snoring.If your child is accustomed to snoring, your doctor might want to ask you some questions about his sleeping patterns and habits. He may also perform a physical examination. There a number of ways for diagnosing your snoring issue, some of which are

  • Imaging

Your doctor may require an imaging test such as an X-ray or a computerized tomography or a magnetic resonance imaging to check the structure of your nasal passages and throat for any possible constrictions such as a deviated septum.

  • Sleep study

Depending on how severe your snoring is, your doctor may have to conduct a sleep study to see how bad your snoring is. It can be conducted at your home or in some clinic.

However, if your snoring symptoms are really bad, you may have to stay at a clinic overnight for a deep check-up of your breathing while asleep by a method called  polysomnography.

During this method, you are connected to machines and sensors and the things that are recorded are brain waves, breathing rates, eye and leg movements, heart rate etc.

Conclusion

If your partner is the one who is snoring, you might feel very frustrated and angry at times when you can not put yourself to sleep.

Earplugs or a fan near the bed might help in masking away the sound of your partner’s snoring.

You should see a doctor if your snoring is very loud and disturbing. Your doctor may suggest a change in lifestyle habits, medications, anti-snore aids or surgery.

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