What is Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the breathing airway is not completely open. This forces the air you breathe to move more quickly through your airway and the soft palate and the uvula (the skin tissue that hangs down the back of the throat) to vibrate. The vibration makes the noise we know as snoring. Over 90 million Americans suffer from primary snoring directly with a much larger number of indirect suffers. Snoring affects both the person snoring and their bed partner and family members whose sleep is disrupted by proxy.
While there is a high degree of variation in snoring patterns — people can snore rarely, intermittently, or with just about every breath they take while sleeping, the primary effect of leaving snoring untreated is lack of sleep. While this may seem like an innocuous effect, sleep deprivation opens your body to a variety of health risks. These include headaches, decreased alertness, moodiness, delayed reaction times, and a difficulty focusing. And those are just the effects that can appear after a few nights of diminished sleep. But, snoring can be a long-term problem and prolonged fatigue can lead to depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Lack of sleep is especially rough on your heart. Over time, having your sleep interrupted by something like snoring can increase the level of stress hormones in your body which is bad for your heart.
How Is Snoring Diagnosed?
Primary snoring doesn’t require a doctor’s visit to diagnosis. Either you or your bed partner will most likely be aware of the snoring through a poor night’s sleep, and while the actual vibrations are what cause snoring to occur, there are many external factors that can lead to a higher risk for snoring itself. Age, weight, allergies, gender, anatomy and lifestyle choices can all contribute to a higher risk for snoring. Sometimes it’s something as simple as the position you sleep in that’s causing you to snore and a slight adjustment can make all the difference. Other factors, like age and gender can’t be helped. Men are a little more likely to snore than women and the older you are, the higher your risk as well. Some allergies cause enough congestion to make snoring an unfortunate side effect, and the same is true for individuals who are overweight. Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol in large quantities (and closer to actually falling asleep) can also lead to snoring. Anatomical reasons for snoring can include a large tongue, the tongue falling backward into the throat, enlarged tonsils, and jaw/facial abnormalities. Each of these factors can cause unstable airflow and result in the vibrations identified as snoring. Even something as simple as a nasal injury can affect your snoring risk.
Snoring is a problem that can often be treated by making small adjustments to your lifestyle or with over-the-counter remedies. Lifestyle changes might include losing weight, exercising more, performing throat exercises, quitting smoking, establishing regular sleeping patterns, sleeping on your side, elevating your head during sleep (sleep pillows), and avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives. Over the counter remedies include EPAP devices (devices that use the power of your own breathing to maintain an open airway), mouth guards, nasal strips, and chin straps.
If you’re looking for over-the-counter solutions that incorporate EPAP, Theravent Advanced Nightly Snore Therapy might be a good place to start your investigation.
Breathe Right seems to be the most popular brand of nasal strips if you’re looking for a solution that you can purchase easily in a store. Nasal strips differ from EPAP products in that they focus on keeping just your nasal passage open while you sleep.
Mouthguards do the opposite of nasal strips and focus on keeping your jaw slightly open and pushed forward to increase airflow. Pure Sleep is a popular brand of customized mouthguards that have been known to help decrease snoring.
Once you find a remedy that works best for you, whether it be a lifestyle change or an actual product, you’ll most likely have to stick with it (intermittently at least) to maintain a snore-free sleep.