*I’m sure just about everyone is somewhat familiar with snoring.
Whether you call it by its slang name, “sawing logs,” or its medical name, “stertor,” snoring is common. You snore when something blocks the flow of air through your mouth and nose. The sound is caused by tissues at the top of your airway that strike each other and vibrate. Many adults snore, especially men.
Just about everyone snores occasionally. Even a baby or a beloved pet may snore! But snoring can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Poor sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And, if your snoring is so loud that your bed partner can’t sleep, you may end up banished from the bedroom.
Snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be loud and unpleasant. Snoring during sleep may be a sign, or first alarm, of obstructive sleep apnea.
Statistics on snoring are often contradictory, but at least 30% of adults and perhaps as many as 50% of people in some demographics snore.[
Although it may be upsetting to think that there could be problems at the root of you or your bed buddy’s snoring, it’s important to get to the bottom of it. When you do, you’ll protect your health, and the intimacy of your relationship.
▪ Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.
▪ The way you’re built. Men have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore. A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes (which contribute to snoring) can be hereditary.
▪ Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
▪ Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring.
▪ Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking (or second-hand smoke), and certain medications, increase muscle relaxation leading to more snoring.
▪ Sleep posture. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway.
It’s crucial to note to the different ways you sleep and snore. Sleep positions reveal a lot, and figuring out how you snore can reveal why you snore. When you know why you snore, you can get closer to a cure.
▪ Closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with the tongue.
▪ Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
▪ Snoring when sleeping on back is probably mild – improved sleep habits and lifestyle changes may be effective cures.
▪ Snoring in all sleep positions can mean snoring is more severe and may require a more comprehensive treatment.
So you’ve tried different sleeping positions and you still suffer from noisy nights? Try the following self-help tips.
▪ Lose weight. Losing even a little bit of weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease snoring. Exercise in general can help because toning arms, legs, and abs inadvertently leads to toning muscles you don’t see in the throat, which leads to less snoring.
▪ Clear nasal passages. Having a stuffy nose makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. You can do it naturally with a Neti pot or try nasal decongestants or nasal strips to help you breathe more easily while sleeping.
▪ Quit smoking. If you smoke, your chances of snoring are high. Smoking causes airways to be blocked by irritating the membranes in the nose and throat.
▪ Establish regular sleep patterns. Create a bedtime ritual with your partner and stick to it. Hitting the sack in a routine way together can promote better sleep and therefore minimize snoring.
▪ Keep bedroom air moist with a humidifier. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat.
▪ Reposition. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. (Tip: go pillow-free or try a specially designed pillow to make sure your neck muscles are not crimped).
Apart from the usual difficulties with snoring (lack of quality sleep) it can place a tremendous strain on a relationship. Even those partners who manage to put up with the snoring their health will start to suffer due to sleep deprivation which in turn can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, raised blood pressure and so on.
One of the primary snoring health problems is sleep deprivation, this can affect so many areas in your day-to-day living. Your head feels soft and fuzzy, you struggle to focus on whatever you are doing, you find yourself nodding off, even worse, possibly falling asleep when you are driving, you are irritable and have a short fuse and have little patience. This can all stem from lack of sleep, you may think you have had several hours of sleep but it will not be of a deep enough sleep for your body to have a complete rest. Quality sleep is often overlooked and not placed with high enough importance and is a real cause of many snoring health problems but if you can get a really good night’s sleep on a regular basis then the daily grind of life becomes a lot easier and you are able to deal with any issues that come your way, you become a lot more positive and you will feel a great deal healthier.
Whilst snoring is caused by and can lead to a number of physical health problems it is also responsible for mental health and emotional issues.
For those who are not afflicted with the condition and are able to sleep without snoring but who live with a snorer, life can become unbearable. Snoring has even been cited as grounds for divorce.
It is not just the partner of a snorer who suffers. During sleeping hours, anyone who is anywhere nearer someone who snores will suffer. It may be other family members living in the same house; it may be neighbors in an adjoining house. With noise levels from snoring reaching the same decibel level as a jet engine – this noise can travel, even through walls.
For anyone affected by snoring, the lack of sleep over an extended period of time can have an emotional and mental impact, which is often hidden and not considered. It can be impossible for the partner of a snorer to get to sleep, let alone stay asleep.
The effects of snoring can be far reaching and are often not considered. Snoring has been known to cause marital breakdown and divorce. People have been evicted from their homes because of the noise nuisance caused by their snoring. Snoring has ended friendships between housemates. The daytime sleepiness that follows a disturbed night of inadequate sleep has caused people to lose their jobs. Snoring and the lack of sleep it causes also causes poor memory and lack of concentration.
Be proactive if you’re a snorer. At least get some nasal strips. If not it can also almost ruin the perfect weekend if you’re not careful…
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.
His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine”, is due out in Fall, 2011.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com