Many funny stories and countless practical jokes have been based on snoring and the people who do it. However, snoring is a real-life physiological condition that can cause sleep disturbances and deprivation to the individual who snores as well as to those around him or her. In the most severe cases, the consequences of snoring can even lead to serious health problems and death.
On the one hand, snoring may be an occasional occurrence which is related to a specific circumstance or a set of circumstances. On the other hand, snoring may also be a constant and chronic problem.
The Mechanics of Snoring
Snoring is the sound, sometimes soft and gentle while at other times and in many people it may be very loud and jarring, emitted during sleep of individuals whose air passages have been obstructed and thus cause the respiratory structures (most often the uvula and the soft palate) to vibrate under the irregular flow of air when breathing. Airway passages which ultimately lead to snoring are many but the most frequent ones are weakened throat muscles that have a tendency to shutdown during sleep; a jaw that becomes misaligned as a result of its tense or spasmodic muscles; a buildup of fat tissue within and surrounding the throat; and blockage in the nasal passages due to allergies, sinus infections, respiratory disease, head colds, the flue and so on.
Important Facts about Snoring
The many studies on this field yield a variety of statistical data as they have all come to the conclusion that snoring is a very common sleep disorder which affects between 30% and 50% of the adult population. Out of these, approximately 60% are men and 40% are women. There is also strong evidence indicating that the propensity to snore significantly rises with increased age.
Individuals who snore can rarely, if ever, sleep through the night and thus they will find themselves adversely affected during the daytime with drowsiness and sleepiness, irritability and bad moods, inability to focus or concentrate on even simple activities, and the loss of sexual desire (libido).
Several reports have shown that snoring is often the cause of numerous psychological issues and social dysfunctions. Furthermore, the same reports associated snoring with life threatening physiological maladies that include an approximated 35% increased chance for a heart attack and nearly a 70% increase for stroke.
Although they are still very new, some studies have been showing a direct link between loud snoring and atherosclerosis and that is due to the premise that snoring creates unrest in the flow of blood through the carotid artery which, in turn, irritates the blood cells closest to the airway passages.
Causes of Snoring
Structure of the Mouth.
Low or thickened soft palate, swollen tonsils or enlarged adenoid, engorged uvula or accumulate fat around the airway passages can limit the air flow and thus lead to snoring.
Structure of the Nose.
The nasal septum is the dividing structure between the two nostrils. When the septum is bent the air flow will be disturbed and will then lead to snoring.
Regardless of their causes, congested nasal passages will result in snoring.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
This condition is characterized by an overgrowth of tissue in the throat which blocks air from flowing in and out, and thus causing snoring.
The intake of alcohol, especially at or around bedtime, tends to relax muscles of the throat which will usually lead to snoring.
Usually, the first course of treatment for snoring involves lifestyle changes such altering sleep position (from back to side), losing weight and staying away from alcoholic beverages. Also, treating the symptoms of nasal congestion will usually stop or decrease snoring.
In cases where the first course of treatment is insufficient enough to markedly eliminate snoring, the second course of treatment may involve dental mouthpieces which realign the jaw and reposition the tongue against the soft palate. Also included in the second course of treatment is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which is a mechanical devise that forces air in through the nostrils.
The third and final course of treatment is most invasive and it includes traditional surgery, laser surgery as well as somnoplasty (radiofrequency tissue ablation).