Every night, as America falls asleep, roughly one out of every four adults will begin to snore. Johns Hopkins estimates that about a quarter of American adults snore “regularity” and almost half of Americans snore “occasionally.” Considering this condition does not only affect the person snoring, but also anyone else in the nearby vicinity, many people would like to cut this behavior if they can! Today, let’s take a deeper look at snoring and some strategies to help curb it.
What is Snoring
At first, the question “what is snoring?” may seem obvious, but snoring is a more complex condition than the annoying noises would at first suggest. Let’s take a closer look at some of the basic facts about snoring.
The list of symptoms that one may experience from snoring is extensive. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these, it may be time to consult a sleep doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms may include:
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Snoring so loud that others wake
- Daytime sleepiness
- Restless sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Headaches in the morning
- Sore throat or dry throat upon awakening
- Gasping or choking at night
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Particularly in young children, they may experience decreased attention span, poor performance in school, or behavioral issues
Unfortunately, there are many, many different reasons that an individual may experience snoring. The following is an unexhaustive list, but it covers many of the basic reasons. At the end of the day, the ultimate reason for all snoring is inadequate or irregular airflow through the mouth, throat, or nasal cavity.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): OSA is a condition in which the muscles that support the structure of your airway temporarily and spontaneously relax. This causes an immediate narrowing or blockage of the airway, which can lead to snoring.
- Sleep orientation: For some people, the specific position in which they sleep can trigger bouts of snoring. Typically, individuals will snore more frequently when sleeping on their back as gravity tends to compress the airway in this position.
- Alcohol consumption: Due to its depressive nature, alcohol has much the same effect of relaxing throat muscles as which occurs in OSA. The amount of alcohol and its relationship to snoring frequency and intensity is personal and will vary from individual to individual.
- Sleep deprivation: Individuals who experience sleep deprivation, whether acutely or chronically, are more likely to experience increased snoring frequency.
- Nasal problems: Individuals that have nasal congestion, obstructions, or an otherwise non-linear path from the lungs to the mouth may experience higher levels of snoring. Individuals that have a deviated septum are particularly at risk.
Not everyone is equally likely to experience snoring in their lifetime. Many different factors may cause an individual to snore with increased frequency or intensity.
- Sex: Men are much more likely to snore, and they are more likely to have OSA as well.
- Weight: Individuals who are overweight or obese have more fatty tissue around their neck. This can cause the airway to be restricted and lead to snoring.
- Family history: Neck size, shape, and configuration is in-part inherited. Thus, individuals with a family history of snoring are much more likely to experience snoring themselves.
Snoring itself can be annoying to individuals in a snorer’s immediate environment. But, this isn’t the only downside for individuals experiencing snoring. Some people may experience other complications.
- Fatigue: As a result of poor sleep quality, people who snore (and may not even know!) are likely to feel more fatigued during the day. This can lead to trouble concentrating or lack of motivation.
- Cardiovascular health: Data suggests that there is a link between frequency and intensity of snoring and overall cardiovascular health. This does not mean that snoring is the causal agent for the associated increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, but it can be a sign that you or your loved one should seek the guidance of a physician.
How to Stop Snoring
So then, where does this leave the millions of individuals who suffer from snoring each night in the United States? Thankfully, for many people, alleviating their snoring could be as simple as making a lifestyle change. These solutions are generally short term and can be enacted without the assistance of a physician.
- Weight loss: As previously discussed, extra weight places a burden on the throat muscles. Losing that weight can drastically reduce the frequency of snoring.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol: One simple test that may work is to cut down on alcohol and drug consumption before bed. Some people may realize immediate relief from their snoring.
- Avoid nasal congestion: For individuals whose snoring is due to nasal congestion, alleviating that nasal congestion is an obvious first step. Nasal decongestants or nose bridge strips can massively help alleviate this problem.
- Adjust sleeping position: This may be tough for some people. As discussed above, sleeping on one’s back is more likely to produce snoring. Thus, strategic use of body pillows or blankets that force an individual who snores onto their side can alleviate this problem.
In some instances, lifestyle changes will not be enough to help some individuals stop snoring. If that is the case, more invasive or intensive treatment options exist.
- Oral appliances: For many individuals, a custom-fitted mouthpiece for use while sleeping can drastically reduce their snoring. This is because the mouthpiece forces the back of the mouth and beginning of the throat into a stable, open position. Some people may experience dry mouth, facial discomfort, or jaw pain as a result of mouthpiece usage.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Particularly for individuals with OSA, a CPAP machine can provide much-needed relief. These instruments, as the name implies, provide a stream of air to maintain positive airway pressure. This can drastically reduce the frequency and intensity of snoring.
- Surgery: In the most extreme cases, like individuals with a deviated septum, oral surgery may be required. One relatively common example is the procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). This involves cutting out extra tissue from your throat to help alleviate the blockage at night.