Snoring – a problem? Ask around! It might be a problem for you, but ask the people around you when you sleep. They will be the people to tell you if it’s a problem – for them! Truth be told? It’s a problem for a lot of people. Since about half of all adults snore at least some of the time, we are all likely to get to deal with this “annoyance”.
Most of us know what snoring sounds like, but what causes it? Snoring occurs when breathing pulls air past the relaxed tissues in the back of the throat and causes the tissue there to vibrate. For many it is simply annoying, but for others, it may indicate a serious health concern.
There are many things that may contribute to or cause snoring: The anatomy of the mouth and sinuses, including the nose; a cold or allergies may cause the tissue in those areas of your body to swell up and narrow the passage for the air flow; alcohol consumption may lead to greater relaxation of those tissues; being overweight is a significant contributor since our bellies aren’t the only thing that expands when we are too heavy! And lastly, being a male raises your odds of snoring.
One of the most common areas involved in snoring is the uvula. That’s the triangular or oval shaped piece of fleshy tissue that hangs down in the back of your mouth. The larger that is, the more the airway is restricted and the more it is present in the path of your airflow to vibrate.
Snoring may be a much bigger concern than simply being a nuisance. Snoring may also be a sign of a serious medical condition called obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea is characterized by periods where a person completely stops breathing while asleep. When that happens, once their body sends out a desperate signal that it needs air, they wake up enough to tighten up tissues to allow the air to pass. For some people this happens many times per hour and can lead to exhaustion. And that exhaustion can lead to falling asleep when the person should be alert, such as when driving — a major potential problem! It can also lead to high blood pressure, heart conditions, and possible strokes.
A medical evaluation is indicated when you becomes aware of your snoring. The prime purpose of that evaluation is to determine if you are “simply” snoring or if you have sleep apnea or any other medical condition that the snoring is either causing or contributing to. Your medical doctor will want to know when you snore most, how often it occurs, and whether you are aware of ever stopping breathing. There is also an easy screening test that may also be used to provide some information for you and your doctor about your level of alertness or exhaustion.
If the medical evaluation rules out problems other than snoring, then that snoring can either be ignored (if it is not causing problems for you or others in your life) or treated in a variety of ways.
Here are some ideas to try for “self-help” approaches:
- Try changing your sleep position.
- Avoid consuming alcohol for several hours before going to bed.
- Weight loss may eliminate the problem.
If those don’t work or aren’t an option, there are treatment approaches with which either your medical doctor or dentist can help you.
- Several surgical approaches are available. In most cases, in my opinion, they are often more involved and carry greater risks than make sense, but there are exceptions to that.
- Treating your allergies may help eliminate the snoring.
- A (CPAP) device (continuous positive airway pressure). This forces air past the soft tissue obstructions, maintaining an open airway and thus eliminating most snoring. This works well, but is usually used for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It tends to be a fairly costly alternative and many people find it cumbersome or a nuisance.
- Oral appliances are a highly effective alternative. These work by holding a person’s mouth part way open, and thus opening the air passage. These appliances are far less costly than a CPAP.
Snoring is a condition that CAN be successfully treated and doesn’t have to become a life-long annoyance. If you are someone who snores or are the one listening to someone snore, seek help. Rest in peace!
This article originally appeared in Dubuque 365ink magazine. It is republished with permission from the publication.