Snoring is so common that many folks don’t consider what is happening to our bodies when we snore, how it happens or why.
According to an article in Scientific American Magazine by Lynn A D’Andrea, a sleep specialist at the University of Michigan, “Snoring is the sound produced by vibrating structures of the upper airway, typically during inhalation. Any membranous part of the airway lacking cartilaginous support, including the tongue, soft palate, uvula, tonsillar pillars and pharyngeal walls, can vibrate. When you sleep, muscle tone throughout your body decreases, or becomes hypotonic. This relaxation of the upper airway muscles during sleep may decrease the size of the airway space and cause airflow limitation and turbulence. It is the combination of turbulent airflow through the hypotonic airway structures that results in the harsh vibratory noise known as snoring.”
Since we are asleep, we don’t notice our own snoring, although our partners do! Sometimes the only way we know we snore is by being told. However, one sign that we snore can be daytime sleepiness and limited cognitive function, sometimes exhibited by accidents due to the slowness we experience when we’re tired. Here are some reasons why we snore.
1) Obesity: This is one of the leading causes of snoring. A severely overweight person will have a larger neck, which leads to obstruction of the airway which leads to snoring. Obesity is also common in people with sleep apnea, though not always.
2) Tonsils: This reason for snoring is more common in children since they are more likely than adults to have enlarged tonsils. Enlarged tonsils will cause an obstruction in the airway and lead to snoring as well.
3) Alcohol: Drinking alcohol before sleeping relaxes the throat muscle and restricts the airway, which is likely to cause snoring.
4) Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This condition and snoring go hand in hand. The obstruction causes snoring, and if it is severe enough, can causes drops in oxygen levels due to pauses in breathing caused by the obstruction. This condition while dangerous, is very easy to treat with CPAP therapy.
5) Nasal Blockage: Allergies, colds and sinus infections can cause nasal blockages, increasing the need for mouth breathing. Snoring is more likely when this happens.
6) Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, she is likely to gain weight and retain water. These two events can temporarily increase the neck width and, therefore, increase the likelihood of snoring.
7) Aging: Older people experience a progressive natural muscle relaxation as they age. This includes the muscles in the throat. This muscle weakness can cause snoring by limiting the airway, especially when the person lies on his or her back.
8) Sleeping on the Back: It is a common occurrence for back-sleepers to snore because this position can restrict the airway.
Occasional snoring is quite normal, but snoring that leads to health issues should be addressed. It is especially important to be wary of snoring that occurs in a person who has high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or in someone who experiences daytime sleepiness or fractured sleep. Snoring in conjunction with these other conditions can be a problem. These conditions certainly warrant a doctor’s visit to determine if sleep apnea is involved. If you would like more information on sleep apnea treatment, or think you may need it, contact Aeroflow Healthcare today.