Frequently Asked Questions and Facts about Snoring, Its Causes, and Possible Cures
It’s estimated that about half of all adults snore.
For many, snoring is a rare occurrence, something they only do a handful of times a year.
Others are such mild snorers that you’d have to be right next to them to even hear it. And their snoring rarely gets bad enough to wake them up. Some people don’t even know they snore.
Then there are those for whom snoring is a major problem. These individuals snore several times a week, if not every night.
And their snoring can gets so loud and severe that it wakes them up…along with everyone else within hearing distance.
On top of the obvious drawbacks of snoring, it can also have a negative impact on your health. It might even be an indication that you’re suffering from a more serious medical issue.
If snoring is a problem for you, you probably have lots of questions about this common and troublesome condition. And here is an overview with some facts that will answer some of the most common snoring questions.
Read on to find out what snoring is, the potential negative side effects, and what might be causing you to snore.
You’ll also learn about some remedies and treatments that can make your snoring less frequent and severe…or even stop you from snoring altogether.
What is Snoring?
Snoring is the buzzing sound some of us make when we’re asleep.
But what causes that sound?
When you snore, it’s because your breathing is obstructed in some way.
When you’re asleep, the muscles of your tongue, throat, and soft palate (the roof of your mouth) relax. If these tissues relax too much, they can partially block your airway.
As air passes through the air passage, those tissues will begin to vibrate. And that vibration is the sound you make when you snore.
The narrower the airway is, the more forceful the flow of air will be. If your airway is particularly narrow, the forcefulness of the airflow will make those relaxed tissues vibrate more. And that will make your snoring louder and more severe.
What are the Negative Side Effects of Snoring?
Snoring can have many negative side effects, some more obvious than others. Here are just a few of them.
Snoring Can Cause Sleep Deprivation
If your snoring is severe, it probably wakes you up several times during the night. Even if you don’t wake up fully, you probably don’t sleep as deeply as you need to in order to be fully rested the next day.
Not getting enough sleep can have some unpleasant side effects. Those who suffer from sleep deprivation:
- Feel tired and sleepy during the day.
- Have a hard time concentrating.
- Are more likely to get angry and frustrated.
- Are more likely to have accidents and make mistakes. In fact, sleep deprivation is a major cause of vehicular accidents.
Your Snoring Can have a Negative Impact On Others
Not only can snoring keep you from getting enough sleep at night, it can do the same to anyone else living in your household.
The partners of severe snorers rarely get enough rest. And snoring has caused many couples to sleep in separate bedrooms. But, sometimes, even that isn’t enough.
If your snoring is loud and severe, it can probably be heard from any room in your home. So not only does it keep your partner from getting enough sleep, it might be keeping your children awake at night too. And children suffering from sleep deprivation are more likely to experience behavioral problems and learning difficulties.
Snoring Can Lead to Health Problems
Snoring increases your risk of experiencing serious health issues. Some of these include high blood pressure, heart conditions, and stroke.
What Risk Factors Make You More Likely To Snore?
Some people are just more prone to snoring than others. Here are a few common risk factors.
Men are more likely to snore than women. In fact, 2/3rds of snorers are men.
But the gap begins to close with age. In fact, women who have experienced menopause are just as likely to snore as men.
The chances that you’ll snore increase with age. And if you already snore, your snoring will probably get worse as you get older.
As you age, the muscles throughout your body (including those in your throat) begin to lose muscle tone. And the flabbier your soft palate becomes, the more likely it is to vibrate as air flows through the air passage.
Some people have certain anatomical characteristics that make them more likely to snore. Some of these characteristics include:
- Large tonsils or adenoids.
- A low and thick soft palate.
- An elongated uvula (which is the triangular flap of tissue that hangs down from your soft palate).
- A naturally large tongue.
- A naturally thick neck.
Any of the above can make your airway more narrow, increasing the likelihood that you will snore.
If you have a family history of snoring, you are more likely to snore yourself. Heredity can also play a part in how frequent and severe your snoring is.
What Can Cause Snoring?
There are many things that can either cause you to snore, or make your snoring worse. In fact, it’s often not one thing that causes snoring, but several different factors working together in concert. And here are some of the most common snoring causes.
Chronic nasal congestion can cause you to snore. So can structural defects. For example, if you have a deviated septum, the partition between your nostrils is out of alignment. This limits the amount of air that can flow through your nose.
If you are overweight, you have more tissues at the back of your throat than you would at your ideal weight. And this extra tissue makes your airway narrower.
Drinking alcohol causes your throat muscles to become more relaxed, resulting in a more narrow, partially obstructed air passage.
Also, we have natural defenses designed to keep our airways from getting blocked while we sleep. But alcohol decreases those natural defenses.
Sedatives depress your central nervous system. This helps you to relax and de-stress. But sedatives also cause the tissues in your throat to relax.
Going to sleep when you’re too tired can have the same effect as drinking alcohol or taking a sedative right before going to bed.
If you go to bed so exhausted you can barely see straight, your sleep will be unusually deep. As a result, your throat muscles will relax more than they usually would, and might cause enough of an obstruction to make you snore.
Not only does sleeping on your back make you more likely to snore, it can also make your snoring louder.
Gravity is to blame. When you lie on your back, the base of your tongue and soft palate are more likely to collapse back into your throat.
Colds and Allergies
Cold and allergy symptoms can make your snoring more frequent or severe. There are some people who only snore when they have a cold. And others find that their snoring is louder when their allergies are acting up.
Smoking can make just about any condition worse. And snoring is no exception.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious medical condition that many people don’t even know they have. And OSA often seems to go hand in hand with snoring.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA) is a condition that is often associated with snoring.
When sleep apnea sufferers are asleep, throat tissues can partially or completely block their airway. This causes them to stop breathing for a short period of time.
Not everyone who snores has OSA. But most people who have OSA also snore.
The Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA sufferers repeat the same cycle several times a night.
The cycle often starts with very loud snoring. Then the snoring will stop abruptly because the individual has stopped (or almost stopped) breathing.
Eventually, the lack of air will cause them to wake up, often with a loud gasp or snort.
This isn’t something that happens just once or twice a night. A person with OSA can repeat this cycle several times during a single hour of sleep.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
You might have OSA if:
- Restlessness keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep.
- You experience chest pains during the night.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You often have headaches in the morning.
- You often wake up with a sore throat.
- You sometimes wake up gasping or choking.
- Your snoring is loud enough to wake up others.
If you suspect you have obstructive sleep apnea, you should seek medical attention. Even if you aren’t suffering from OSA, some of the above symptoms can indicate that you’re suffering from some other health condition.
If your child snores, even if you don’t consider it severe, talk to a pediatrician about the possibility that he or she has OSA.
Health Risks And Sleep Apnea
People with OSA are at greater risk of experiencing serious medical conditions like high blood pressure. OSA also increases your risk of developing heart disease.
What Remedies and Lifestyle Changes Can Help Alleviate Snoring?
Some snorers find that making a few simple lifestyle changes is enough to put an end to their snoring woes…or at least make their snoring less severe. But no one snoring remedy will work for everyone. And you might have to try several to find some that work for you.
Here are some things you can try to decrease the frequency or severity of your snoring.
Treat Any Nasal Problems
Nasal problems, like chronic congestion and structural deformities, are a common cause of snoring. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to alleviate congestion. These remedies can also provide some relief to those suffering from a deviated septum.
- Take a hot shower before going to bed. This will open up your nasal passages.
- Try an over the counter nasal decongestant. A decongestant might give you some fast relief. But you shouldn’t use a spray or oral decongestant for more than three consecutive days without consulting a doctor. Over the counter decongestants can cause a rebound effect, and make your nasal congestion even worse than it was before.
- Use a prescription nasal spray. If you suffer from chronic congestion, consult your doctor. He or she might give you a prescription for a steroid spray to deal with the problem.
Try nasal irrigation
Nasal saline irrigation is a safe and natural remedy for clogged nasal passages. This remedy is often used to treat sinus problems caused by sinus infections, allergies, and environmental irritants
A simple salt water solution (usually made of distilled water and table salt) is used to flush out your nasal passages, which can alleviate nasal congestion and sinus pressure.
Lose Some Weight
Losing weight will decrease some of the extra throat tissue that might be narrowing your airway.
There’s no guarantee that losing weight will cure your snoring. But if you didn’t start snoring until after you put on a few extra pounds, losing those extra pounds could definitely help.
Get More Physical Exercise
Doing physical exercise helps to improve the muscle tone throughout your entire body, and that includes toning the muscles in your palate. And toned throat muscles equal a more open airway.
Try Targeted Exercises
Playing certain wind instruments, singing, and doing singing exercises can tighten and tone the muscles of the upper throat and soft palate, which would benefit anyone who snores or has sleep apnea. There are even exercise programs designed specifically to treat snoring.
Don’t Drink Alcohol Right Before Bed
Ideally, you should stop drinking alcohol 4 or 5 hours before you go to sleep. At the very least, you should have your last drink about 2 hours before your intended bedtime.
Limit Sedative Intake
Don’t take any sedatives right before you go to bed. And if your doctor is about to give you a prescription for a sedative, let him or her know that you snore.
Get More Sleep
Adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day in order to be fully rested. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night (maybe because snoring keeps waking you up), consider working an afternoon nap into your daily routine.
Sleep On Your Side
Snorers are often told to sleep on their sides rather than on their backs. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
If you have trouble staying on your side when you’re asleep, try taping a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top or nightgown. That way, if you roll over, the tennis ball will poke you in the back, encouraging you to turn back onto your side.
Positioning a full-body pillow at your back can also help you stay on your side while you’re asleep.
Deal With Allergies
Allergens in the bedroom (like dust mites and pet dander) can trigger an allergic reaction that causes you to snore.
Try to keep your bedroom free of dust. You should vacuum carpets regularly, and clean ceiling fans at least once a week.
You also want to try to keep your pets out of your bedroom. Or, at the very least, keep them off of your bed.
To get rid of dust mites in your pillows, wash them every two weeks. If you can’t put your pillow in the washing machine, run it through the fluff cycle in your dryer every week or two instead. And consider getting new pillows every sixth months.
Sleep with Your Head Elevated
Raising the head of your bed about four inches can help open up your nasal passages.
If you don’t want to lift the head of your bed, there are pillows and cushions that can elevate your head to the same degree. Just keep in mind that sleeping with your head elevated that much can cause neck pain, especially at first.
What Anti-Snoring Aids Can Help to Reduce or Eliminate Snoring?
Given how common snoring is, it’s no surprise there are so many anti-snoring aids and devices on the market. Here are a few of the most popular and effective.
Anti-snoring mouthpieces keep your jaw, tongue or soft palate from obstructing your airway.
There are different types of anti-snoring mouthpieces that work in different ways. Two of the most common are MAD mouthpieces and TSD mouthpieces.
Mandibular Advancement Devices hold the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position. This keeps the airway open, and creates more space at the back of the throat.
While MAD mouthpieces are effective at stopping snoring, those who wear dentures, have missing teeth, or have other dental issues might not be able to use these oral appliances.
Tongue Stabilizing Devices pull the tongue forward, or hold it down, so that it can’t collapse into the back of throat. The amount of space in the airway is also increased.
When it comes to alleviating snoring, MAD mouthpieces have a higher success rate. But TSD mouthpieces might be a better choice for those with certain dental issues.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) is the most common, and most effective, treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. CPAP also prevents snoring.
While you sleep, you wear a pressurized mask that covers your nose, or your nose and mouth. The mask is connected to a pump that sits next to your bed.
The CPAP machine forces pressurized air through your airway, which helps keep the air passage open and unobstructed.
While CPAP is an extremely effective treatment for snoring, there are some downsides. Some find different aspects of CPAP (from having to sleep in a mask, to having air forced into their throat) uncomfortable. And many find it difficult to fall asleep because of the noise made by the pump.
CPAP machines can also be expensive, especially compared to other snoring aids.
Nasal Strips and Nasal Dilators
If you suffer from nasal congestion, allergies, or a deviated septum, over-the-counter nasal strips can help.
Applying an adhesive nasal strip across the bridge of your nose can open up your nasal passages and help your breathe more easily.
Another option is a nasal dilator. This stiffened adhesive strip is externally applied across the nostrils, which holds them open.
Nasal irrigation using a saltwater rinse will help open your nasal passages. And while you can use a regular bottle for nasal irrigation, it’s much easier when you use a Neti pot.
A Neti pot can be made of ceramic or plastic, and looks like a small teapot. You can find Neti pots for as little as $10. And most Neti pots come with detailed instructions to help you quickly get the hang of using them.
Anti-snoring pillows hold your head in a position that keeps the airway open. And many anti-snoring pillows work whether you sleep on your side, your back, or your stomach.
Usually made of memory foam, anti-snoring pillows are both comfortable and effective.
What Snoring Surgeries Are Available?
Some surgical procedures seek to eliminate snoring by increasing the size of the airway.
But while some snorers have had success with surgical procedures, there is no guarantee surgery will stop you from snoring, or even make your snoring less severe.
And there are other downsides.
- It can take a few weeks—or months—to recover from surgery.
- Surgery for snoring can be costly, and might not be covered by insurance.
- Most experience side effects, including pain and discomfort, after surgery.
Getting surgery for snoring should be an absolute last resort. Still, if surgery is an option you’d like to consider, here are some surgical procedures commonly used to treat snoring.
During an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (or UPPP) excess throat tissue is trimmed away, and the remaining throat tissue is tightened.
Potential side effects of the UPPP procedure include bleeding, pain, nasal congestion and infection.
During a maxillomandibular advancement (or MMA), both the jaw is moved forward, or advanced. This creates more space in the airway.
Radiofrequency Tissue Ablation
During a radiofrequency tissue ablation (or somnoplasty) a low-intensity radiofrequency signal is used to shrink tissue in the tongue, nose and soft palate.
This is an outpatient procedure performed using local anesthetic, and is usually less painful than some other snoring surgeries. However, recovery can take up to 6 weeks. And side effects include sore throat and swelling.
Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation
In this procedure, a stimulus is applied to the nerve that controls the tongue’s forward movement. If the procedure is successful, your tongue will no longer block your airway while you sleep.
If you have a deviated septum, the nasal septum (the wall between your nostrils) is out of alignment, which can obstruct airflow.
Septoplasty is the surgical procedure used to repair a deviated septum. During the surgery, the nasal septum is moved back into its proper position.
Parts of the septum might also be cut or removed during the surgery.