What are the signs and symptoms of snoring?

Snoring is known to cause sleep deprivation to snorers and those around them, as well as daytime drowsiness, irritability lack of focus and decreased libido. It can cause significant psychological and social damage to sufferers. Multiple studies reveal a positive correlation between loud snoring and risk of heart attack and stroke. Though snoring is often considered a minor affliction, snorers can sometimes suffer severe impairment of lifestyle.

The structures involved are the uvula and soft palate. The irregular airflow is caused by a passageway blockage and is usually due to one of the following:

  • Throat weakness, causing the throat to close during sleep.
  • Mispositioned jaw, often caused by tension in the muscles.
  • Fat gathering in and around the throat.
  • Obstruction in the nasal passageway.
  • Obstructive sleep Apnoea.
  • The tissues at the top of airways touching each other, causing vibrations.
  • Relaxants such as alcohol or other drugs relaxing throat muscles.
  • Sleeping on one's back, which may result in the tongue dropping to the back of the mouth.

Are there any ways to treat snoring?

Almost all treatments for snoring revolve around clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. This is the reason snorers are advised to lose weight (to stop fat from pressing on the throat), stop smoking (smoking weakens and clogs the throat) and sleep on their side (to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat). A number of other treatment options are also available, ranging from over-the-counter aids such as nasal sprays, nasal strips or nose clips, lubricating sprays, oral appliances and "anti-snore" clothing and pillows, to such unusual activities as playing the didgeridoo. Specially designed laser treatments can also be used to reduce the inflammation and elevate the soft palate and uvula as well as Mandibular Snoring devices.

Orthopaedic pillows are the least intrusive option for reducing snoring. These pillows are designed to support the head and neck in a way that ensures the jaw stays open and slightly forward. This helps keep the airways unrestricted as possible and in turn leads to a small reduction in snoring.

Dental appliances called mandibular advancement splints, are specially made to advance the lower jaw slightly and thereby pull the tongue forward. This is a common mode of treatment for snoring. Such appliances have been proven to be effective in reducing snoring and sleep apnea in cases where the apnea is mild to moderate. Mandibular advancement splints are often tolerated much better than CPAP machines.

Positive airway pressure: A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often used to control sleep apnoea and the snoring associated with it. To keep the airway open, a device pumps a controlled stream of air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over the nose, mouth, or both.

What Causes Snoring?

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: Some people snore only during allergy seasons or when they have a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum (a structural change in the wall that separates one nostril from the other) or nasal polyps can also cause obstruction.
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: Throat and tongue muscles can be 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.
  • Bulky throat tissue: Being overweight can cause bulky throat tissue. Also, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.
  • Long soft palate and/or uvula: 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.

Are there any Health Risks associated with Snoring? 

Habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea creates several problems, including:

  • Interruptions of breathing (lasting from a few seconds to minutes) 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. Waking up so many times a night interferes with the normal pattern of sleep causing more time to be spent in light sleep than in more restorative, deeper sleep.
  • 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 and increase risk for car accidents.