When we hear someone else snoring, we might jump to the conclusion that it’s a sign that they’re sleeping deeply. While this may be true, there are also more sinister causes for snoring. It can greatly impact a person’s sleep quality leading to side effects such as fatigue and impaired cognitive functioning.
Have you ever been nudged awake by a frustrated partner? Ever wondered why your friends never want to stay overnight? It’s more than likely because of your snoring habits. Sometimes it can be a slight grumbling noise and other times, it can sound like a foghorn warning a ship about hazardous obstacles up ahead.
But how do you know if it’s due to something serious? Below, we go through the most common snoring causes and when to go and seek professional advice.
Snoring is an issue that affects millions of Canadians on a nightly basis. The act of snoring itself is due to soft tissue vibrations caused by a partial blockage of the airway during sleep. When this partial blockage occurs, a distinctive sound can be heard.
While not all cases of snoring will indicate an underlying health or sleep disorder, knowing the factors that increase the likelihood of it happening are important to be aware of.
As we get older, our sleeping habits tend to change. Falling asleep can often take longer and our sleep quality may not be as restorative. Notable changes to our weight, especially around the neck area, can restrict throat space making it narrower.
Muscle tone also becomes more lax meaning that our throat muscles and tongue relax more. This makes it easier for vibrations to happen when inhaling causing us to snore.
Certain nasal and throat conditions are another cause of snoring. Enlarged tonsils, deviated septums and adenoids all affect breathing patterns while sleeping and inhibit the ability of air to pass freely through the nose and throat.
Sinuses and blocked nasal passages are another snoring cause. That’s why you may notice a loved one snoring more when they have a common cold. When our airways are blocked, it makes inhalation more difficult and causes a vacuum effect in our throats.
Consuming alcohol before going to bed is another factor that causes snoring. Alcoholic drinks act as a muscle relaxant. This causes your throat to relax and slacken while you are sleeping. As the throat muscles relax, vibrations occur causing you to begin snoring. Of course, this is only a temporary cause and may lead to sporadic episodes of snoring.
Being overweight can contribute greatly to snoring on a regular basis. As we mentioned briefly above, when we put on extra weight around the neck and throat area, whether it is age-related or not, it increases the likelihood of snoring. That is because the extra fatty tissue and poor muscle tone in this area obstruct our ability to breathe normally.
Another factor on the list of snoring causes is the way in which you sleep. Our sleeping positions can also determine whether we are a snorer or not. The sleeping position in question here is being a back sleeper.
If you tend to sleep primarily on your back, it is not surprising if you turn out to be a snorer. When we sleep flat on our backs, we are giving the muscles in our throat more opportunity to relax therefore blocking our airways.
The great news is that by simply adjusting some aspects of your sleep environment and how you sleep can often resolve the problem. Try elevating your head at least four inches with an extra pillow. This may ease breathing and encourage your tongue to move forward. Alternatively, try sleeping on your side instead as this will improve your breathing rhythm.
While most of the snoring causes mentioned above are either temporary or can be adjusted with some simple lifestyle changes, it can also be a sign of a more serious sleeping disorder. Many people don’t realize that snoring is also a symptom of the sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is caused by an airway blockage. This airway blockage causes many OSA patients to snore loudly and experience apnea events, which are pauses in breathing, during sleep. If your snoring is also accompanied by any of the following it may be worthwhile seeking help from a professional:
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